Aaron and Marie Jones' homebred 4-year-old Sunriver won for the first time at 12 furlongs and moved trainer Todd Pletcher one step closer to some significant marks. Pletcher, who has already set a single-season earnings mark in 2007, won his 56th graded stakes of the year, one short of the record he established last year. The victory was also his 93 stakes win this season, seven shy of his '06 record.
There was some concern about how Sunriver would handle a soft course -- the Hollywood Park turf was rated "good" -- but he made every step a winning one.
The Saint Ballado colt broke alertly to open up nearly a two-length advantage over Heroi Do Bafra heading into the first turn. He was in full control while clicking off fractions of :25 4/5, :50 1/5 and 1:14 3/5, and had plenty left for the home stretch after completing the mile in 1:39 1/5. Heroi Do Bafra applied pressure on the outside approaching the quarter pole before falling back, and Spring House, racing wide throughout in the second flight of horses, also rallied into contention. But Sunriver left them all behind as they straightened into the lane and was not threatened while opening a four-length advantage. He won by 2 3/4 lengths over favored Champs Elysees in 2:27.07.
The 17-10 choice Champs Elysees, the royally-bred Juddmonte Farms' colt who was making his first start in the U.S. for trainer Bobby Frankel, was trapped behind horses in the tight pack on the final turn. He angled out in upper stretch for jockey Julien Leparoux and rallied to gain second by 2 1/4 lengths over Spring House and Tyler Baze.
A full brother to champion filly Ashado, Sunriver won the Peter Pan (gr. II) and finished third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) as a 3-year-old before Pletcher switched the dark bay to the grass this spring. He won the Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Belmont Park turf July 15, then ran fourth in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and second in the Man o' War (gr. IT) this summer. Sunriver was coming off a sixth-place finish in Woodbine's Canadian International (Can-I) Oct. 21, although beaten by only 2 1/2 lengths. That was only his first try at 12 furlongs.
Sunriver, who is out of the Mari's Book mare Goulash, improved to 6-3-3 in 17 lifetime starts with earnings of $816,414. He has won three of six tries on turf.
Sent off as the second choice in the field of seven, Sunriver paid $6, $3.20 and $2.40 and topped a $2 exacta worth $15.20. Champs Elysees, a full brother to champions Intercontinental and Banks Hill and grade I winner Cacique, returned $3.20 and $2.40. Spring House, winner of Oak Tree's Carleton F. Burke (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita last time out for trainer Julio Canani, was $2.40 to show.
Obrigado finished fourth, with Tissy Fit, Chief Running Bear and Brazilian grade I winner Heroi Do Bafra trailing. The Irish-bred Sudan was scratched.