Making his first start for trainer Larry Jones after being recently transferred from the barn of Steve Asmussen, Kodiak Kowboy dug in during a stretch run in overhauling Desert Key, who went off as the 8-5 favorite and blazed through fractions of :21.79, :44.13, and 1:08.81.
The final time under winning jockey Gabriel Saez in the 6 1/2-furlong race over the main track was 1:15.56. Devereux finished third, beaten 4 1/2- lengths.
Jones gave credit to previous trainer Asmussen in a post-race interview, and to Saez, who posted his first-ever Saratoga victory.
“He was already pointed to this race,” Jones told the New York Racing Association. “All I had to do was not mess it up. It worked out well for us. Gabriel has stepped up to the plate every time I’ve called upon him. We’re proud of him. He’ll not be out-ridden. Once you get even with him, you’re in trouble.”
Jones said Kodiak Kowboy will likely start next in the King’s Bishop (gr. I) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the undercard of the Aug. 23 Travers Stakes (gr. I), a race Jones won last year with Hard Spun.
“Kodiak Kowboy needed this race, since it had been a while since he had run,” Jones said of his colt, who last time out finished second in the April 26 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. “The King’s Bishop is our target. It would be nice to win it again this year.”
Kodiak Kowboy, a colt son of Posse-Kokadrie, by Coronado’s Quest, sat fourth through the opening quarter before making a strong four-wide move on the turn. Advancing into second, the colt hooked up with the front-running Desert Key in the stretch and prevailed at the wire.
The winner improved to 6-2-1 in 11 career starts with $684,058 in earnings. It was Kodiak Kowboy’s second grade-II win of his career, and second at Saratoga, having last year won the Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) to cap a then-winning streak of four consecutive races.
"Being that Kodiak Kowboy had won here before, I felt very comfortable," Saez said. "This was my first time on him and he surprised me. It’s nice to win here. Now I can go home happy.”
Bred in Kentucky by Hartwell Farm, Kodiak Kowboy is owned by Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm. Vinery Stables purchased Kodiak Kowboy for $70,000 at the 2006 Ocala Breeders Sales Co.’s August yearling sale out of the consignment of Burleson Farms. J.W. Singer had originally purchased the colt for $40,000 at the 2005 Keeneland November breeding stock sale out of the Hartwell Farm consignment.
Kodiak Kowboy paid $6.10, $3, and $2.70, while Desert Key paid $2.90, and $2.60. Devereux paid $3.90.
Silver Edition, Excess Capital, Fidelio, who went to his knees at the start, and Eaton’s Gift followed.