Gun Salute Fires in Hawthorne Derby

Prohibitive favorite Gun Salute was all out to hold off Cosmic Kris and post a gutsy win in the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) at nine furlongs on the turf Saturday.

The Brant Laue homebred Gun Salute, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, survived a foul claim in the roughly run stretch drive, paying $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10 as the 1-5 favorite in the field of five. The winning time was 1:47 2/5 on a firm going.

The neck victory was anything but easy for Gun Salute, the bay son of Military-Hail Roberta who won the Secretariat (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in his last start and now has three graded stakes triumphs in a row for trainer Bill Mott.

After stalking pacesetter Thunder Mission (:23 4/5, :47, 1:10 2/5) in third place, Gun Salute edged up on the outside to take the lead in upper stretch. But the Irish-bred Embossed ridden by Larry Melancon and Cosmic Kris with E.T. Baird aboard both made big moves. Cosmic Kris actually took the lead briefly, but Gun Salute, on his inside, battled back and refused to give in as they fought through the final furlong.

Cosmic Kris ($3.20, $2.40) finished second, well clear of Embossed ($2.40), who could not continue his momentum late and settled for third. Bellator finished fourth.

Gun Salute has won four of six tries in 2005, including a nose victory in Arlington's American Derby (gr. IIT) prior to his win in the Secretariat. Overall, his record is 6-1-1 in 10 starts with earnings of $688,344.

(Chart, Equibase)