Pin Oak Stable's Cryptograph, with Todd Kabel aboard, roared down the stretch to capture the $161,050 Durham Cup Stakes (Can-III) Saturday at Woodbine.Sent postward a slight favorite over 2004 Queen's Plate winner Niigon in the 1 1/8-mile contest, Cryptograph moved from fourth turning for home and eventually collared the leaders at the sixteenth pole. He pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths, in 1:52.51 while battling a fierce headwind down the lane. Niigon raced just in front of the favorite along the backstretch, but was passed by winner on the turn and finished second. Longshot Forever Rush, who had battled Honolua Storm and Sky Diamond and took a brief lead, hung on for third, three-quarters of a length further back, in the field of six.Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Cryptograph, a son of Cryptoclearance, was winning for the first time in more than a year, when he captured the Round Table Stakes at Arlington Park in July 2004. Since then, he'd campaigned throughout the United States, racing at Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, and Prairie Meadows.In his only Woodbine appearance Aug. 26, he just missed beating Sky Diamond in a 1 1/16-mile allowance contest.Honolua Storm led for most of the trip, taking the field through early fractions of :24.17, :47.96 and 1:12 flat, before being challenged by Sky Diamond and Forever Rush. Cryptograph languished in last for the first three-quarters of a mile before moving up around the far turn, with Niigon in close pursuit."He's just a good horse," Pierce said. "He's worked too good his last two works to not run well today."Since that Woodbine debut, Cryptograph had worked four times, including two bullet five furlong moves Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 to indicate his readiness.
"I would like to have seen some faster fractions early," said jockey Robert Landry, about Chiefswood Stable's Niigon, who was trying to win his first stakes race since last year's Plate. "My horse ran hard. Maybe I was a tad back further than I wanted to be. But we both closed. The winner closed from behind me. When (jockey) Todd (Kabel) was starting to rally up, I tried to get the jump on him. He fought hard. That horse just ran by us."As the 7-5 choice, Cryptograph returned $5.10, $3.30, and $2.80 while picking up a purse of $96,390. He combined with Niigon ($2.80, $2.70) for a $12.20 exacta. Forever Rush ($4.30) completed a trifecta worth $84.70. (Chart, Equibase)