Matador wins the Cup and Saucer Stakes.

Matador wins the Cup and Saucer Stakes.

Michael Burns

Matador Holds On in Cup and Saucer Thriller

John Oxley's maiden prevails with a nose victory over filly Cool Faith at Woodbine.

Matador battled Cool Faith the entire length of the Woodbine turf course stretch in the $244,192 Cup and Saucer Stakes (VIDEO) to prevail by a nose in a terrific finish between a couple of determined 2-year-olds Oct. 20.

A son of Malibu Moon  trained by Mark Casse for owner John Oxley, Matador broke through in the 1 1/16-mile race for horses foaled in Canada with the first victory of his career. Racing over a yielding surface, he defeated the filly Cool Faith, who was an impressive debut maiden winner against males Sept. 28, in a time of 1:47.89.

It marked consecutive victories in the Cup and Saucer for Casse and Oxley, who won last year's renewal with Star Contender.

Bred in Ontario by Windhaven Farms out of the Elusive Quality mare I'm Breathtaking, Matador was purchased by Casse, as agent, for $150,000 from the Eaton Sales consignment at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt had two prior starts, both in stakes events, and was coming off a third-place finish behind My Conquestadory in Woodbine's one-mile Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) on grass Sept. 14.

Eleven contested the Cup and Saucer after three scratches, but it was really just between Matador, ridden by Luis Contreras, and Chiefswood Stable's homebred Cool Faith, with Omar Moreno aboard. Those two picked each other up soon after the start and dueled on the front end with longshot Maritime Pulpit on their outside through quarter mile fractions of :24.89, :48.16, and 1:13.28. Cool Faith, on the inside all the way around, led by a head at that point. As the pair separated from the rest of the field, she held a half-length advantage in the stretch.

But when the two leaders began to weaken past mid-stretch, Matador looked to have the momentum only to see Cool Faith battle back courageously. In the desperate lunge at the wire, Matador held the advantage by the barest of margins.

Asserting Bear, rallying gamely from mid-pack at 21-1 odds for James McAleney on the far outside, arrived late to finish a clear third, three-quarters of a length behind. The remainder of the field had problems making up any ground over the boggy going.

Maryland shipper Lulu Le' Mon, the 9-5 favorite for trainer Tony Dutrow off a sharp closing five-length maiden win on the turf at Laurel Park, rated at the back of the pack for much of the trip. But he never got into gear while finishing seventh.

Matador earned $145,815 for the victory and has now banked $176,287 in his brief career. Sent off as the second choice, he paid $7.50, $3.50, and $3.20. Cool Faith, the third favorite, received a three-pound weight allowance while carrying 119, and returned $5.30 and $4.50. She was part of an exacta worth $35.70. Asserting Bear, racing for Bear Stables and trainer Reade Baker, paid $10.30 to show while pumping up a trifecta that came back $513.80.

Said Kathryn Sullivan, Casse’s assistant trainer: "We’ve had great hopes for this horse and he really came through today. I mean, he just did not give up at all. I wasn’t really sure (who had won). She (Cool Faith) just kept coming back on. But it was a great race.”

Majestic Sunset, who raced as an uncoupled entrant for Casse and Oxley, was 2 1/2 lengths farther back while nosing out Man o' Bear for fourth. Then came Mega Length, Lulu Le' Mon, Bangkok, Breaking Doors, Maritime Pulpit, and Leif Erikson. Coltimus Prime, Go Bro, and Tower of Texas were all scratched by the stewards.