Darley Stable’s Justenuffhumor remains undefeated on the season as he collared pacesetter Cowboy Cal inside the sixteenth-pole and posted a half–length victory in the $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Aug. 28 on the Saratoga turf.
It was the sixth win in as many starts in 2009 for Justenuffhumor, who scored earlier this month at the Spa in his stakes debut—the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT). The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor gave trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his third consecutive win in the Bernard Baruch. McLaughlin won the previous two runnings of the nine-furlong event with Shakis, who died tragically last November.
Cowboy Cal was eager to get to the front in the Baruch, just as he was when setting the pace and finishing third in the Fourstardave. Under the handling of John Velazquez, the 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt battled Seaspeak through an opening quarter-mile in :23.23, then continued the hot pace while getting a half-mile in :46.94 and three-quarters in 1:11.35. Those two were well clear of the field through the backstretch, with Kutais, Mambo Meister and Sette E Mezzo racing in the next group.
Cowboy Cal still led when they turned for home and enjoyed a seemingly comfortable two–length lead with a furlong remaining. But Justenuffhumor, who raced near the back of the pack early on, launched his rally midway on the turn, was swung wide by Alan Garcia for his stretch move, and began eating up ground with his huge strides. The bay colt finally corralled Cowboy Cal inside the sixteenth-pole on his way to another win.
The final time on the "firm" turf was 1:47.38. Cowboy Cal was 2 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Sette E Mezzo. Seaspeak was fourth in a field of 10.
"It was a good run," Garcia said. "That’s a nice horse. They did an excellent job with this one. I wasn’t worried today. He was comfortable. I was very confident throughout the race. I knew he’d wait until the quarter-pole to give the best he had and he showed he was the best horse."
Justenuffhumor’s lone setback in seven career starts came in his debut back in October on Keeneland’s Polytrack—his lone start of 2008. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in January in his first try on grass and has not lost since.
An earner of $317,400, Justenuffhumor was bred in Kentucky by Mt. Brilliant Farm, and is out of the Broad Brush mare Justenuffheart.
"(He's) a special horse that can make that move," McLaughlin said. "I haven’t been around too many that if you can get them in the gate, they’ll just find a way to get to the wire first, and this is just one of those horses. He’s a little tricky in the gate sometimes, but I feel so confident getting him in the gate, if it’s a mile, or a mile and an eighth, or a mile and a sixteenth, he’ll find the wire first and that’s a great feeling."
The winner, who was coupled with stablemate Colony and sent off as the odds-on favorite, paid $3.80, $2.50, and $2.10. The exacta (1-5) returned $13 and the trifecta (1-5-9) was $70.
Of runner-up Cowboy Cal, Pletcher said: “He ran super; it was a tough beat. We’ll either go to Keeneland for the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I, Oct. 10) or California for one of the prep races out there. We’ll see."
Mambo Meister was fifth, followed by Interpatation, Colony, Deal Making, Yate's Black Cat, and Kutais.