Csaba nearly stole the whole prize and Ducduc just failed to overhaul his rival in the latter stages. In the end, both horses settled for a dead-heat in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Fred W. Hooper, reaching the finish line together in the 1 1/8-mile event at Calder.Csaba, the overwhelming 1-5 favorite with jockey Luis Saez, showed speed as expected in the six-horse field, establishing an early pace in :24 1/5, :48 4/5 and 1:13 while being chased by Two is to Many and Fair Whit. The Phil Gleaves-trained three-year-old shook off his pursuers turning for home, opening a three-length advantage with a furlong remaining, but Ducduc was cranking up his late rally.
Ducduc, who left the starting gate as the 7-2 second choice for trainer Shivananda Parbhoo, rated well behind the front-runners and still trailed by 8 1/2 lengths with a half-mile remaining. But the six-year-old came rolling off the far turn into the picture with rider Orlando Bacachica and made up a lot of ground late as Csaba began to tire, drawing even in the final strides.
The winners stopped the teletimer in 1:52 4/5 on the fast track. It was a 7 1/4-length margin back to Fair Whit in third, and He's Spectacular, Two is to Many and Decaf Again completed the order of finish.
Csaba paid $2.10 for win, place and show wagers. Ducduc returned $2.60, $3.40 and $2.40.
Campaigned by Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff, Csaba registered his first graded victory after posting wins in the El Kaiser and Tropical Park Derby, the latter coming as 14-length landslide when moved from turf to dirt in his previous start. The Kitten's Joy colt posted a nose second in the Grade 2, off-the-turf National Racing Museum Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga and also placed in the Grade 3 Palm Beach and Mambo Meister this season. He has earned $251,935 from a 15-6-1-3 career line.
Csaba was bred in Kentucky by Ken & Sarah Ramsey and hails from the winning War Chant mare High Chant. Stakes winner and multiple Grade 3 runner-up Highfalutin is the bay's second maternal dam.
Ducduc, who sports the silks of Shivanda Racing, entered the Hooper off a runner-up in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck and recorded wins in this year's Our Dear Peggy and the 2011 Joey Blueeyes. The dark bay son of Langfuhr was bred in Kentucky by William B. Harrigan and 12 Gates Racing and sold for $40,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September sale. Out of the winning Tyne, a daughter of Awesome Again, Ducduc is from the same female family of 1988 champion turf horse Sunshine Forever. His career mark now reads 38-10-8-5, $306,174.