High Cotton rebounded off a dull effort in last month's Arkansas Derby (gr. II) to draw away to the easiest kind of win in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico Saturday.
Stablemate Ultimate Goal finished second, 5 ½ lengths in the winner's wake. Little Cliff was 5 ¼ lengths back in third in the race for 3-year-olds.
Ah Day, the even-money favorite who earlier in the week had been under consideration for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), finished fifth. Ah Day is trained and co-owned by Maryland legend King Leatherbury.
High Cotton, a son of Dixie Union
out of the A.P. Indy
mare Happy Tune, is owned by John Fort's Peachtree Stable. The bay colt was bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish and Ogden Mills Phipps.
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher sent out the first two finishers in the Sir Barton.
Breaking sharply from post 3, High Cotton took the lead from the get-go in the Sir Barton under jockey Garrett Gomez. Going by the stands the first time in the 1 1/16-mile race, High Cotton was tracked by WinStar Farm's Ultimate Goal, Ah Day, and Robert LaPenta's Little Cliff. Around the first turn and down the backstretch, High Cotton led easily with Ultimate Goal and Little Cliff to his outside and Ah Day tracking on the rail.
The early fractions were :23.68, :46.83, and 1:10.98.
Turning for home, High Cotton shook loose of Ultimate Goal as Little Cliff and Ah Day backed up, completing the mile in 1:36.38. The final time was 1:42.95.
"He's a decent little horse and he does things nice," Gomez said. "He's professional. When he got a little pressure, he was up to the task. The more pressure he got the better he was. When I turned for home, I cut him loose and I got the response I was looking for."
The third choice in the seven-horse field, High Cotton paid $10.40, $5, and $3.80. Second choice Ultimate Goal returned $5 and $3.60 and Little Cliff paid $4.40 to show. The exacta returned $46.80.
High Cotton was considered a Triple Crown candidate at the end of his 2-year-old season off placings in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). However, in his sophomore debut Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park, he ran poorly in an allowance race. He rebounded off that to be an impressive winner over Polytrack in Turfway's Rushaway Stakes. At Oaklawn, High Cotton was up close early, but faded to finish ninth of 13 in the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby.
"Apparently, he likes to run loose on the lead," said Ginny DePasquale, Pletcher's assistant. "He won at Turfway like that. He was in a bit of trouble at Oaklawn and broke in a little bit of a tangle coming out of the gate. He had a clean trip this time."
High Cotton now has a slate of 3-2-1 from nine career starts and earnings of $220,450.