Martin and Pam Wygod’s homebred Courageous Cat took over on the far turn and held off Sal the Barber in the stretch to claim his third consecutive turf victory in the $160,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Aug. 14 at Saratoga.
It was the first graded stakes triumph for Courageous Cat, a 3-year-old son of Storm Cat. Kent Desormeaux guided the bay colt to victory for trainer Bill Mott, who earned his sixth victory in the event. The final time for 1 1/8 miles over a firm turf course was 1:45.90.
Sal the Barber ran fourth through the backstretch and made his bid coming off the turn under Ramon Dominguez. The Alphabet Soup colt had the entire stretch to run down Courageous Cat from the outside, but could not catch the game winner, who hit the wire 1 3/4 lengths ahead. Sal the Barber finished a neck in front of third-place Al Khali. No Inflation was fourth in a field of 10.
Straight Story, sent off as the 8-5 favorite, set the pace under John Velazquez by clicking off splits off :23.32, :47.19 and 1:10.45. Courageous Cat pressed the early leader from the outside, edged in front as they approached the quarter-pole, opened up a two-length lead at the top of the lane, and never relinquished his lead.
“The sky’s the limit for this horse the way carried me today," Desormeaux said. "He’s a very nice horse. He’ll win a grade I. He’s come around; three in a row now. He’s going to be something special. I was looking forward to winning it.”
Bred in Kentucky and out of the Rahy mare Tranquility Lake, Courageous Cat broke his maiden at fourth asking June 10 at Belmont and came back five weeks later to win the A Gift Stakes over the same turf course. He is now 3-1-0 from six starts with earnings of $181,300.
"(His maiden win) two back was good, the last one (on July 19) was real good, and this one was very good," Mott said. "Kent was very impressed; he said he was just rocking along, cruising very nicely, breathing easily and doing it the right way. He said he might be very special.
"This horse is probably a little quicker than (full brother After Market, Hall of Fame winner in 2006) was. Maybe he has a little more natural speed (and is) quicker on his feet."
The winner paid $9.10, $5.30, and $4.30. The exacta (8-9) returned $58 and the trifecta (8-9-5) was $457.50.
Midnight Mischief was fifth, followed by Lime Rickey, Out At Night, Straight Story, Conservative, and El Crespo.