High Cotton Rises to Northern Dancer Victory

Peachtree Stable's High Cotton, under a vigorous ride from the top of the stretch by Garrett Gomez, surged past the tiring favorite Private Vow at the eighth pole and went on to win the $220,400 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup (gr. III) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Churchill Downs.

High Cotton prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths for his first graded stakes victory. The stalking Simon Pure edged 25-1 shot Sayhellotolarry by a neck for second in the 1 1/16-mile event. The winning time was 1:43 1/5.

High Cotton, the slight favorite over Private Vow, both at 3-2, led at the outset but settled into second as Private Vow and Shaun Bridgmohan, breaking from the rail in the field of six, pulled their way to the front along the inside. Private Vow, making his first start since a 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) six weeks ago, set fractions of :24 2/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12. High Cotton appeared to be in deep water at the head of the stretch as he came under strong pressure from Gomez to keep up with Private Vow, who was gliding on the front end. But as they reached the furlong marker, High Cotton overcame the leader, who backed up quickly to finish. The winning margin was 1 1/2 lengths.

The victory made it back-to-back wins for the Todd Pletcher-trained High Cotton, a bay colt by Dixie Union-Happy Tune (Dixieland Band) who won the Sir Barton on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico May 20. After a ninth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) knocked the Kentucky-bred off the Triple Crown trail in April, High Cotton is reaching the promise he showed as a 2-year-old. Bred by William S. Farish and Ogden Phipps, High Cotton was a $110,000 yearling buy at Keeneland in September 2004.

"When he turned for home, I didn't know how much more he was going to find, but when Garrett got after him, he seemed to respond really gamely," said Pletcher.

Pletcher said High Cotton was roughed up in the Arkansas Derby.

"You really had to see the start of the Arkansas Derby to really appreciate how bad of a trip he had that day," he said. "He got annihilated at the start and came back all cut up. Since then, he's put together two really good races."

High Cotton earned $135,594 for his fourth win in 10 starts and boosted his bankroll to $356,044.

The winner paid $5, $3.20, and $2.80. Simon Pure, ridden by Julien Leparaoux, returned $6.60 and $5.20. Sayhellotolarry, Calvin Borel aboard, was $6.80 to show.

Admiral's Arch and Cielo Gold preceded Private Vow to the wire.

"I thought I had a pretty smooth trip around there," said Bridgmohan of Private Vow. "The fractions were moderate, and he (Private Vow) was running comfortably. I have no answers for what happened at the end. He was running the whole way, and I don't know what happened."

(Chart, Equibase)