Buffalo Man kicked off his 3-year-old season successfully at Gulfstream Park Sunday, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and prevailing by one length in the $77,750 Spectacular Bid.
The Ontario-bred bay son of El Prado validated his 7 3/4-length win in the Meadowlands' Storm Cat to wrap up his juvenile season Nov. 11 for Cam Gambolati, who trained Spend a Buck to win the 1985 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Buffalo Man was an also-ran in Belmont Park's Champagne (gr. I) when eighth behind Scat Daddy at odds of 47-1 prior to the Storm Cat last fall.
"The Champagne was my fault," Gambolati said. "I asked (Javier) Castellano to try and rate him, and he got in all kinds of trouble – bounced around like a pin-ball and stepped on three times. Forget that race. Then he ran well to win at Meadowlands. I wasn’t really going to run in this race, but he was doing so well we went ahead."
Gambolati said a likely option for Buffalo Man is the Holy Bull (gr. III) on Feb. 3.
"We’ll talk it over, but after the way he ran today, I guess it’s time to try the big boys," he said. "We’ll just go one race at a time.”
Ridden by Eddie Castro Sunday, Buffalo Man chased the pace in the six-furlong event before winding up three wide on the turn to gain the lead. After edging away, Buffalo Man was under heavy pressure from Castro to hold off favored Out of Gwedda, who edged Green Vegas by a neck for second.
The final time was 1:09 3/5 on a fast track.
Voodoouthinkur set a strong pace of :22 1/5 and :44 4/5 before being giving way, passed by Buffalo Man and the pressing Straight Faced, who also faded in the stretch.
Buffalo Man signaled readiness for his return with a bullet three-furlong breeze in :36 4/5 at Gulfstream Jan. 5. He has won four of six starts with earnings of $147,700 for Rick Pitino's Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock.
"I had worked him earlier this week and I rode him at Monmouth, and he has been very sharp every time," Castro said. "We came back from the work, and Cam really wanted him to run in this race. He can settle and come with a run. He’s got a really nice punch.”
Adena Springs bred Buffalo Man, a $190,000 2-year-old sale last spring. The colt is out of Perfect Six, by Saratoga Six.
“I helped pick this horse out of the Adena Springs sale," Gambolati said. "I’ve gotten to know Randy Bradshaw, who breaks Mr. (Frank) Stronach’s young horses, pretty well, and he said he loved him. He showed promise before he ever started."
The third choice in the field of seven, Buffalo Man paid $9.40, $4, and $2.60.
Out of Gwedda, unbeaten in two starts previously with John Velazquez aboard, returned $3.20 and $2.80.
Green Vegas, who shared top weight of 122 pounds with Straight Faced, was $2.80 to show with Julio Garcia aboard.
James Wilfred, Straight Faced, Voodoouthinkur, and Pop Goes the Tiger.