New York shipper Last Gunfighter earned his fourth graded stakes win of the year, closing to get the job done by a length over 14-1 shot Mister Marti Gras in the $350,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Hawthorne Racecourse Nov. 30 (VIDEO).
John D. Gunther's homebred son of First Samurai came off a fifth-place finish in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park to start as the 4-5 favorite in a field of eight at the Chicagoland oval, and drew off in the final sixteenth under vigorous handling by jockey Joe Bravo to wrap up the 1 1/4-mile event in a slow 2:06.11 on a fast track. The victory pushed his earnings past the million mark, to $1,025,405.
The 4-year-old colt and 120-pound highweight picked up his first grade II win, adding to a resume that includes three grade III victories in 2013 for trainer Chad Brown—the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, the Pimlico Special at Pimlico Race Course, and the Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park. He was also fifth in the Sept. 28 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and second to three-time grade I winner Flat Out in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) back in July. He started the season with a victory in the Jan 19 Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct, that win part of a six-race win streak that did not end until the Suburban.
Multiple grade I winner Alpha was the 5-2 second choice and pacesetter in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, and crept away through a languid early pace of :25.09, :51.14, and 1:15.61 as Suns Out Guns Out and 29-1 shot Street Spice followed along. Last Gunfighter was still sixth behind a mile in 1:40.80, and it looked like Alpha would carry on as the field turned for home, but in upper stretch the front-runner conceded the lead, and it was Street Spice who inherited the advantage.
Last Gunfighter was kicking in, however, and ground down the outside with Bravo keeping him to task. He provided a solid response to take control inside the furlong grounds, and edged forward late to secure the victory.
Last Gunfighter returned $3.80, $2.40, and $2.60 while 14-1 Mister Marti Gras paid $7.80 and $5.40. Street Spice brought $8.80 at odds of 29-1, while Alpha, Suns Out Guns Out, Fordubai, Hattaash, and Derby Kitten completed the order of finish. Prayer for Relief scratched in favor of the Nov. 29 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, where he finished last.
Bred in Kentucky out of the Sir Cat mare Saratoga Cat, Last Gunfighter improved his record to 8-3-2 from 15 starts.