Versatile Cowboy Cal went gate to wire to win the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the Santa Anita turf course Oct. 10, and earned the right to advance to the $2 million TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) next month.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, the 8-5 favorite Cowboy Cal shook off Monterey Jazz in the stretch to gain a clear advantage and held off Global Hunter through the lane while drifting out late under strong urging. The 4-year-old Cowboy Cal went over the $1 million mark in career earnings with the victory.
Global Hunter, winner of the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) at Del Mar over the summer, held second for Corey Nakatani as the late-running Whatsthescript ran on for third on the extreme outside with Joel Rosario aboard.
Cowboy Cal, who was under pressure from Monterey Jazz son after the start, clicked off quarter-mile fractions of :23.46, :46.09 and 1:09 flat. He came home in a an excellent final time of 1:33.12.
“I could see Mike’s horse (Smith, aboard Monterey Jazz) was acting up in the gate and I wanted to see how he came out of there," Gomez noted. "I thought, ‘If my horse breaks, I’ll just let him roll and see what happens.’
"As it turned out, we broke good and I decided if I could get a length in front to the first turn and tighten it up some, they’d have to commit if they wanted to press me. They backed off and so we were able to get a fairly okay (first) quarter and a little faster half. He was drifting out some in the stretch, but he ran great.”
Global Hunter, who stalked in third into the far turn, drew close to the winner in the lane and finished willingly.
However, trainer A.C. Avila said afterward, there "would be no Breeders' Cup for us."
Whatsthescript, breaking from the far outside in the field of eight, had a wide journey all the way.
Owned and bred by Robert and Janice McNair and trained by Todd Pletcher, the winning son of Giant's Causeway --Texas Tammy, by Seeking the Gold, is headed for the Nov.7 Breeders' Cup.
“This horse answers the question every time. He keeps on showing up, and he’s definitely worthy of a grade I (win) at some point, hopefully, a month from now," said Mike McCarthy, Pletcher's assistant. "The strategy was kind of to take what came easily. Monterey Jazz got off a little slow, and we got lucky.”
Cowboy Cal was coming off a narrow second-place finish to Justenuffhumor after setting the pace in Saratoga's Brernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 28. He won for the first time since taking Santa Anita's Strub Stakes (gr. II) over the Pro-Ride racing surface in February. He had lost five in a row since. Overall, his record improved to 7-5-1 in 17 starts with earnings of $1,001,810.
Cowboy Cal paid $5.20, $3 and $2.40, keying a $2 exacta of $21.80. The Argentina-bred Global Hunter returned $4.20 and $3. Whatsthescript, third in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile behind Goldikova and Kip Deville, paid $2.40 for his third consecutive third-place finish.