East Coast invader Red Giant nipped Out of Control in a tough stretch duel to win the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by a head in world record time during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Park Sept. 27.
Rated well off the blistering pace by John Velazquez in the 1 1/4-mile test, Red Giant hooked up with Out of Control in upper stretch. Red Giant, on the outside, put a head in front in the final furlong and outlasted his rival to the wire in a time of 1:57.16. That broke the previous world and course mark of 1:57 2/5 established by Double Discount on Oct. 9, 1977 and equaled at Santa Anita by Bequest on March 31, 1991.
With the victory, Red Giant, owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, is a likely candidate for the Emirates' Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 25 over the same Santa Anita course. The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt has won both of his starts in 2008 after taking the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) by a neck on yielding ground at Saratoga Aug. 3.
Transduction Gold edged Spring House for third.
The world record time was undoubtedly helped by a hot pace set by You Got Me Rocking, who clicked off fractions of :23.52, :45.63, and 1:08.86 under Joel Rosario. By the time they went a mile, You Got Me Rocking was tiring, and a stalking Out of Control moved to the front.
Under Garrett Gomez, Brazilian-bred Out of Control had a short lead while entering the stretch, but Red Giant quickly came to his outside and took over just inside the eighth-pole. Those two dueled for the length of the stretch, but Red Giant never relinquished his lead.
"I knew they were going pretty fast in front of me and I didn't want to move too soon," Velazquez said. "Down the backside, I just decided to go with Frankel's horse (Out of Control).
"The conditions today were completely different from Saratoga. The turf there was soft and today it's really firm. I was a little concerned about it, but he handled it fine."
Bred in Kentucky by Edward and Marilyn Seltzer, Red Giant was shipped in from New York, where he had made his last three starts. The consistent chestnut has done no worse than second in his last 10 starts and has now improved his record to 6-3-1 from 12 lifetime starts with earnings of $1,092,410. He is out of the Kingmambo mare Beyond the Sun.
"He was the class of the race," Pletcher's assistant Mike McCarthy said. "I imagine he'll go on (to the Breeders' Cup Turf) if he comes out of this race all right. I imagine that's the plan. He's a very easy horse to be around and a very easy horse to train. He almost trains himself."
Red Giant paid $6.20, $3.20, and $2.40. The exacta (6-5) returned $18.80, while the trifecta (6-5-2) was worth $78.
Spring House, sent off as the 9-5 favorite, finished fourth, followed by You Got Me Rocking, and Bonjour. Ferneley was scratched.