Rafael Bejarano brought overlooked Catcominatcha through heavy traffic to prevail over a game High Cotton by a neck in the $116,700 Iroquois (gr. III) for 2-year-olds going a mile Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Eddie Kenneally, the Thomas McCann homebred Catcominatcha was second to the front-running Dawn of War in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 8, but was sent off at 8-1. The public got behind impressive maiden winner Flanders Fields, who never threatened at odds of 3-2 while finishing fifth with Jerry Bailey aboard.
Catcominatcha, the son of Tale of the Cat
-Certainly a Star (by Red Ransom
), was well back in the field of 13 down the backstretch but moved up between horses on the turn. Stuck behind the leaders as they advanced through the stretch, Catcominatcha found room between horses, got through on the inside and collared High Cotton near the sixteenth pole.
After hitting the front, Catcominatcha was hard-pressed to hold on as High Cotton and Javier Castellano fought back in a stiff drive for the wire.
"The last time (Catcominatcha) finished a really good second, but he got in a little traffic trouble from the half-mile to the quarter pole," said Bejarano. "I tried to stay in good position and when I saw a good spot on the inside, I just asked him to go and he just came really, really strong in the last furlong."
Mondavi, a 72-1 shot with Mike Smith aboard, finished third, 4 1/2 lengths behing the runner-up. He edged 84-1 Mr. Pinstripe by three-quarters of a length. The final time for the one-turn mile was 1:36 1/5.
Right Place N Time, a 10-length maiden winner in his debut who was sent off at odds of 7-2, set a quick early pace with Sharp Attack of :22 and :45 before the stalking High Cotton took over.
Catcominatcha put an end to a three-race losing streak while improving her career mark to 2-2-0 in six starts with earnings of $200,034. The win was worth $72,354.
Catcominatcha scored his only previous victory in 15-length romp in a $50,000 claiming race at Ellis Park on Aug. 4. He stepped into stakes races for Kenneally after that win and finished second in the James C. Ellis Juvenile at Ellis Park and fourth in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Park prior to the Breeders' Futurity.
"He's never run a bad race, really," said Kenneally. "He's improving all the time. He's a gutsy little horse."
He paid $18.20, $7.80 and $5.40. High Cotton, who ran sixth in the Breeders' Futurity, returned $8.20 and $6.40. Mondavi was $18 to show.
After Mr. Pinstripe and Flanders Fields, it was Charley Tango, Red Raymond, Laity, Right Place N Time, Testimony, Sharp Attack, Grand Survival and Brassie Prince.
Breaking from the extreme outside post, Flanders Fields was last in the field of 13 in the early going and attempted to rally under Bailey on the turn. He flattened out in the run to the finish.
"He's just a big, long-striding immature horse," said Bailey. "He can't go that fast early, he can't make those quick moves, and that's typically what you get in a mile race. It's like a come-from-behind sprint and he's just not built that way."