Jockey Alan Garcia guided Justenuffhumor through heavy traffic in the stretch to win the $158,750 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) in the 4-year-old colt's stakes debut Aug. 2 at rainy Saratoga.
Darley Stable's Justenuffhumor won his fifth consecutive race for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Under a steady downfall, the winning son of Distorted Humor saved ground and had several to beat at the top of the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile turf event. But Garcia weaved Justenuffhumor through the tight pack to get into contention mid-stretch. Near the eighth-pole, Justenuffhumor burst though a hole between Mambo Meister at the rail and the pacesetting Cowboy Cal, then drew off under urging for a 2 1/2-length victory.
“He broke good and was in good position," Garcia said of the winner. "My horse was nice and quiet and relaxed. By the three-eighths pole I was only looking for the hole to run to.”
Mambo Meister, ridden by Jose Lezcano, edged the 2-1 favorite Cowboy Cal by a half-length for second. Cosmonaut, who engaged Cowboy Cal for the lead in upper stretch, settled for fourth. Second choice Kip Deville faded out of contention. The final time was 1:42.83 over 'good' going.
Cowboy Cal, pressed early by the outsider Papa Bear, set fractions of :23.91, :47.63 and 1:12.50, and had opened up a comfortable advantage on the turn before being tackled by tracking Cosmonaut.
Rising star Justenuffhumor is undefeated in five starts this year, all on turf. The only blemish on his resume came in an off-the-board showing in his maiden debut on Keeneland's Polytrack last fall.
A $550,000 Keeneland September yearling sale in 2006, the bay colt won an optional claiming allowance race over similar footing on the Belmont inner turf course in his last start June 17. He also won on a good course at Aqueduct in April. The $95,400 winning purse increased Justenuffhumor's career earnings to $197,400.
“He’s run that way every time," McLaughlin said. "That’s his fifth time to win, and every time he’s finished very well. This was a little better group. We have to keep stepping up."
McLaughlin said the Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) at nine furlongs on Aug. 28 is next on Justenuffhumor's schedule.
"Alan rode him great, and the gate crew has done a good job; he’s a difficult horse at the gate. He’s always a little tricky at the gate. He seemed to handle tracks that were labeled good before, and there’s always a little more give in the ground than you think.“
Mt. Brilliant Farm bred Justenuffhumor in Kentucky. He is out of Justenuffheart, by Broad Brush.
Justenuffhumor carried 115 pounds -- seven fewer than the top-weighted Kip Deville -- and paid $9.50, $6.30 and $3.50 as the third choice in the field of nine. Mambo Meister, winner of the Blazing Sword on Calder's turf course in his last start for trainer Phil Gleaves, returned $14 and $4.80 and completed a $2 exacta worth $91. Cowboy Cal, winless in four starts since taking the Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride in February, was $2.80 to show.
"He took on the pressure and he responded in the early stages," said Ramon Dominguez, who rode Cowboy Cal. "He tried to go out a little bit. He has done that in the past. Still, he fought hard and kept on trying through the end."
It was three-quarters of a length to Cosmonaut in fourth. He was followed by Veiled Prophet, Wesley, Interpatation, Kip Deville and Papa Bear.