Grand Contender outfinishes Taptowne to win the Texas Mile.

Grand Contender outfinishes Taptowne to win the Texas Mile.

Dustin Orona Photography

Grand Contender Edges Taptowne in Texas Mile

Maggi Moss' former claimer shows his grit at Lone Star Park the night of April 26.

Gritty Grand Contender battled head-and-head with Taptowne through the stretch before inching clear in the $200,000 Texas Mile Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) the night of April 26 at Lone Star Park.

The Louisiana shipper, a former claimer trained by Tom Amoss and ridden to victory by Richard Eramia for owner Maggi Moss, prevailed by a half-length in a time of 1:36.68 around two turns on a fast track. Bourbon Courage , the 8-5 favorite in the field of nine older horses, rallied belatedly for third after a slightly wide trip.

The winning 6-year-old Strong Contender gelding has won two in a row after dominating the restricted Borgata Stakes at one mile over a sloppy track at Delta Downs March 15. He had been based at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where he ran second in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) two starts back, before shipping to Lone Star in early April.

Off at 7-2 odds, Grand Contender stalked a lively pace set by Skip the Pinot, who was pressed by Smack Ridge through quarter mile fractions of :23.53, :46.52, and 1:10.43. Racing on the inside of Taptowne, who was ridden by Calvin Borel, Grand Contender advanced into contention and poked his head in front at the quarter pole before hooking with Taptowne at the top of the stretch.

"I saw a lot of speed in the race. I think my horse can be a little more close, but I saw these two horses (Smack Ridge and Proud Strike) going a little quick, so I took him back and put him clear outside," Eramia said. "I saw Mr. Borel (on Taptowne), he stared letting go of his horse. I tried to go together 'cause, you know, this is the horse I gotta' beat."

Grand Contender did just that in an all-out effort under strong urging from Eramia, pulling away just yards from the wire.

Epona Thoroughbreds bred Grand Contender in Kentucky out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer.

Claimed for $20,000 by Moss at Saratoga Race Course in August 2012, the big bay competed in the claiming ranks the rest of that year. In 2013, he stepped into allowance company, winning a pair before moving up to the stakes ranks last November.

He won the Delta Mile Stakes at Delta Downs Nov. 23 and was fourth next out at Fair Grounds in the Tenacious Handicap. From there he placed in the Louisiana Handicap last January and placed again in the Mineshaft Feb. 22 before landing the Borgata.

With the latest win, Grand Contender improved his race record to 7-3-4 from 21 starts and earnings of $418,860.

Grand Contender paid $9, $4.80, and $3.40, with runner-up Taptowne, the 2-1 second choice, returning $3.20 and $2.60. The exacta was worth $33.40. Bourbon Courage, who finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner under Leandro Goncalves, paid 2.60 to show. Stachys, Smack Ridge, Proud Strike, Forest Mouse, Texas Air, and Skip the Pinot completed the order of finish.

Lone Star reported that total merged live handle for the night was $1,195,050, an increase of 15.36% from 2013.