Cease closed ground in the final stages of the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup and took command to earn his first black-type victory on the night of March 3 at Sam Houston Race Park.
Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider, the well-bred 5-year-old son of War Chant drew off for a 2 3/4-length victory over pacesetting Coyote Legend in his ninth lifetime start. Al Stall Jr. is the winning conditioner.
Cease clocked the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.52 over a fast track.
Out of the Cox's Ridge mare Limit, Cease had previously run third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) and was also fifth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. In his first start since the Breeders' Cup, he posted a runner-up effort in an allowance optional claiming event at Fair Grounds Feb. 16.
Glen Murphy, the leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park, was aboard the bay gelding who was sent off as the 5-2 third choice in a field of eight.
Murphy tucked Cease in a perfect stalking position behind Coyote Legend, who completed the first quarter mile in :24.04, the half mile in :48.68, and six furlongs in 1:13. Chris Landeros kept Coyote Legend to task, but Cease rallied on the outside of the front-runner to challenge near mid-stretch and surged to the front in the final furlong.
“You can just take one look at this horse and see that he is made for nine furlongs and beyond,” said assistant trainer Glen Brookfield, who saddled the winner for Stall. “He’s a classic horse; just bred for the distance. Al felt that the Fair Grounds race set him up beautifully for this. That is what we were pointing for.”
Murphy won four races on the card to further solidify his lead in the jockey standings over Gerardo Mora and Larry Taylor.
“I was pretty confident the whole way,” said Murphy. “He was well underneath me; just seemed like he was on cruise control. I knew when I asked him, I could see daylight.”
This was the second Maxxam victory for Stall, who won the 2005 edition in 2006 with Middleweight.
Coyote Legend, who won the Star of Texas Stakes at the Houston track Jan. 21, had to settle for second at his first attempt at nine furlongs. He was 1 1/4 lengths in front of J J's Indy, ridden by Erik McNeil.
“He ran a great race,” said Jay Severs, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “We weren’t sure he could get the distance, but he gave his all.”
Gleam of Hope, the 17-10 favorite, finished fourth. He was followed by Omniscient, Anaan, Bayboy, and Col. Wright.
Cease returned $7.40, $4.40, and $2.80, and keyed a $21.40 exacta with second choice Coyote Legend ($3.80, $2.80). J J's Indy paid $6.
Unraced at 2, Cease picked up a check of $90,000 for his third victory, increasing his lifetime earnings to $243,388.