The 4-year-old After Market, a Storm Catcolt out of the Wygod stakes star Tranquility Lake (Rahy), began his career with four consecutive wins, but had not visited the winner's circle since taking the Hall of Fame Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) on the Saratoga sod Aug. 7.
Alex Solis, who has been aboard After Market for all three of his starts since John Shirreffs took over training duties this year, stalked the erratic pacesetter Willow O Wisp while racing in fourth position on the outside into the stretch. Responding when urged After Market rallied while continuing to race on the outside, getting past Willow O Wisp on the outside and prevailing under left-handed encouragement in a time of 1:39 3/5 for the 1 1/6-mile event on firm going.
Red Fort, unable to avoid a wide trip while trailing in the compact field under David Flores, turned in a strong effort in his first start since last July, finishing with interest at a distance shorter than his best. But he could not threaten the winner, taking second by three parts of a length over the 2-1 favorite Willow O Wisp, who would not be denied the lead and carved fractions of :23, :46 4/5 and 1:10 1/5 with David Cohen aboard.
Following After Market's win at Saratoga last summer as part of Bill Mott's stable, the colt offered no response in a 10th-place showing as the even-money choice in the Kent Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park in September. He went to the sidelines for the remainder of the year and was transferred to Shirreffs after an eighth-place finish in an optional allowance/claiming race on the Gulfstream Park grass in January. Following a sixth-place finish in the Frank Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) when beaten by less than three lengths, After Market last raced fifth in a classified allowance race at Santa Anita on March 31, beaten by less than two lengths while racing in tight quarters in the final quarter mile.
“After that trip at Santa Anita we were due for some luck,” said Solis. “I wanted to make sure that didn't happen today. I got to the backside and they slowed it down and I said, 'let me go,' and I stayed outside because I didn't want to take a chance. It was very impressive. In the last sixteenth he changed leads and I hit him a couple of times and he really leveled off and took off running. Very amazing."
After Market has now won five of nine with earnings of $283,685 after taking down Saturday's winning purse of $64,920.
The co-second choice in the field of six, After Market paid $9.20, $4.80 and $3.20, topping a $50.80 exacta with the Irish-bred Red Fort ($6.40, $3.80), who has now lost six straight since winning his U.S. debut more than two years ago for trainer Neil Drysdale. Willow O Wisp, who won last year's Inglewood in front-running style, was $3 to show.
It was three-quarters of a length to fourth-place finisher Get Funky, who pressed Willow O Wisp before tiring.
“(Willow O Wisp) was pressured a little more than I would have liked, and the horse (Get Funky) that pressured him finished behind him,” trainer Vladimir Cerin said. “We didn’t do each other any favors. I still think his third race off the layoff will be his best and he probably won’t be pressured as much in the Shoemaker. That’s still our goal and I’m quite confident he’ll be a major factor.”
Railroad and Stormin Away trailed. Courtly Jazz and Sound Breeze scratched.
The longshot trend prevalent the first three days of the meet ended as there were 71 perfect Pick Six tickets, each worth $46,492.80. There was a rare three-day carryover of $1,481,038 entering Saturday’s card and an additional $3,293,367 was wagered.