Bar Three's homebred Best of Buddies battled for the lead every step of the way from the rail and held off the fast closing Crested by a neck to capture the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) in his stakes debut Saturday. Leaving from the rail over a firm course with Eddie Martin Jr. aboard, the 3-year-old Best of Luck gelding pressed through inside to take a short advantage over Tally Up into the first turn, completing the opening quarter :24.62. With Tally Up just to his outside and the 3-5 favorite Brilliant seemingly poised to go while three-wide in third, Best of Buddies took a clear length advantage on the backstretch and backed down the pace through a half in :49.74 and three-quarters in 1:13.61. As they turned for home, the two chasers backed out of it, and the front-running 12-1 shot Best of Buddies received fresh challenges from Arbuckle Bandit and Crested, who had been bottled up inside before finally shaking free at the eighth pole. Crested chopped into the lead with every stride, but the Best of Buddies got to the wire before his rival could get to him, prevailing by a desperate neck in a final time of 1:50.59. Arbuckle Bandit finished third. Trained by Michele Boyce, the Illinois-bred Best of Buddies is now perfect from four starts on grass. It was his fifth win from 13 starts overall, and he now boasts a career bankroll of $260,871. Best of Buddies just ran Sept. 29, winning over an optional allowance/claiming field over the Hawthorne lawn by a neck."My only concern was that this race came up so soon," Boyce said. "It was only 14 days after his last race and he's a delicate little horse. He's not a strapping big colt. I would have liked three weeks between races but this is the way that it came up and he responded to the challenge. He's just a gutty, game little horse."Best of Buddies returned $26.00, $13.80 and $9.00. Crested paid $8.40 and $8.60, and Arbuckle Bandit returned $11.60 to show. Brilliant, who was sent off as the heavy 3-5 chalk off his romping win the Kent Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park last out, finished sixth, beaten 6 ¾ lengths. Jockey Robby Albarado said he was comfortable with his partner's position entering the stretch."He offered some (response) but not what I was anticipating," Albarado said.
Sea of Trees was fourth, followed by Go Between, Brilliant, Creative force and Tally Up.(Chart, Equibase)