Third at mid-stretch, former claimer Headache closed steadily to edge Where's Sterling by a half-length in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) in Illinois Oct. 8 (VIDEO).
Urged home by Paco Lopez for trainer Michael Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Headache scored at 5-1 while running the 1 1/4-mile distance in a tepid 2:04.68 over a fast main track.
Headache was reserved toward the rear of the 10-horse field while saving some ground to the far turn and advanced between foes under patient handling. Reaching contention near mid-stretch, he was three across with Where's Sterling and Cease at the16th pole and finished best under strong handling.
"I had a little trouble around the five-eighths,'' Lopez said. ``I had to wait a little. I also saw a couple of horses waiting on the inside. But once we got clear around 4 1/2 furlongs out, I went after it. I saw (Where's Sterling) and (Giant Oak) coming along with Cease, but I was able to hold them off.''
Winner of the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) by 2 1/2 lengths at Prairie Meadows June 25, Headache had not been out since running fifth in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 6. The 5-year-old Tapit gelding out of the Woodman mare Pamric won for the third time in seven starts in 2011.
The Ramseys claimed Headache for $25,000 at Belmont Park in September 2009. The gray/roan was bred in Kentucky by Dr. J.K. and Linda Griggs.
Where's Sterling, who gained the lead in upper stretch for E.T. Baird, proved stubborn while holding on for the place spot by a head over Cease and Miguel Mena. Rule, the slight 5-2 favorite, came up empty in the lane and finished seventh. Giant Oak, a dual grade I winner this year who was also sent off at 5-2, rallied mildly for fifth as the 119-pound high weight.
"They went so slow early,'' jockey Jesus Castanon said of his trip aboard Giant Oak. ``I got pushed pretty good on the first turn and that got my horse upset. He wanted to go after them. I got him settled down on the backside and then he went fine. He made a move but they went away from him.''
Cherokee Lad, at 50-1, set the pace (:24.11, :48.79, 1:13.72) before fading.
Headache posted his eighth lifetime win in 26 starts. He earned $300,000 for the victory and has now banked $768,398. He captured the Claiming Crown Jewel at Canterbury Park in July 2010.
The winner carried 115 pounds and paid $12.60, $6, and $4.40 as the fourth choice. Where's Sterling returned $7.40 and $5.80. The exacta was worth $84.80. The show price on Cease was $4.40.
Mister Marti Gras finished three-quarters of a length farther back in fourth, followed by Giant Oak, Maristar, Rule, Moe Man, Worldly, and Cherokee Lord.