Cowboy Cal cruises in the Tropical Park Derby.

Cowboy Cal cruises in the Tropical Park Derby.

Jim Lisa

Cowboy Cal Romps in Tropical Derby

The 3-year-old Giant's Causeway colt captured his first graded stakes win Jan. 1.

Stonerside Stable’s impressive homebred colt Cowboy Cal opened up his 3-year-old season with an easy two-length victory in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) at Calder Race Course, giving the son of Giant's Causeway  the first graded stakes victory of his career.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Cowboy Cal now has three wins in four lifetime starts. He was coming off a 6 1/4-length score in the Nov. 24 Laurel Futurity. Ridden by John Velazquez, Cowboy Cal won the 1 1/8-mile turf event for 3-year-olds in a final time of 1:46.95.

Why Tonto, also trained by Pletcher, took second at odds of 11-1, while Cannonball was a neck in front of Dynhocracy for third in the field of 12.

Just as he did in his last start, Cowboy Cal stalked the early pace, which was held by the Joel Sainer homebred Joey the Scholar. Velazquez settled Cowboy Cal comfortably behind the leader, who set opening fractions of :23.18 and :47.15. Cannonball was also up close on the backstretch.

Joey the Scholar still had a short lead, but began to fade at six furlongs. Cowboy Cal accelerated to the front midway on the final turn and staked a two-length advantage at the top of the stretch. He was unchallenged throughout the stretch.

“This is such a super horse to ride," Velazquez said. "We were in the spot we wanted the entire race, but going around the first turn and for a bit down the backside he got a little aggressive. I was able to settle him down though, especially once we got the lead. It seemed like he was pouring it on in the stretch, but he was actually relaxed and doing it pretty easily.”

Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Texas Tammy, Cowboy Cal was bred in Kentucky. He made his first lifetime start on dirt, finishing seventh at Saratoga last summer. Since Pletcher switched him to the turf he is three-for-three.

"He trained really well on dirt from the beginning, but his first race was a little disappointing, although it was a sprint," Pletcher said. "Then, he worked good on the grass and the Giant’s Causeways do well on turf, so we mapped out a program that included the Laurel Futurity and he was pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and so was Why Tonto, but neither one got in.

"We will definitely try Cowboy Cal back on the dirt, possibly the Fountain of Youth, and go from there."

Going off as the 3-5 favorite, Cowboy Cal paid $3.40 to win. The all-Pletcher exacta (5-2) with Why Tonto returned $25, while the trifecta (5-2-1) with second betting choice Cannonball earned bettors $99.20.

(Chart, Equibase)