Forced to miss a start in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) last month due to a quarantine caused by equine herpes virus, Don't Get Mad returned to action Saturday with an impressive win as the odds-on choice in the $217,400 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
The fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in his last start, Don't Get Mad earned his first graded stakes victory for trainer Ron Ellis. Gary Stevens piloted the son of Stephen Got Even
from behind for a 3 1/4-length victory, completing the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds in 1:42 2/5.
"I don't ever believe that I've ridden a horse on the dirt that has the acceleration," said Stevens. "He's got like turf acceleration on dirt and that's hard to find. He made up like four lengths in the matter of two strides."
Don't Get Mad had been stabled in Paul McGee's barn when the quarantine was imposed on McGee's horses, but the limited training schedule he was forced to undergo didn't seem to have a detrimental effect. He won for the fourth time in five career starts at Churchill Downs, his only loss coming in the Derby.
Taken in hand early while racing off the rail, the 9-10 choice Don't Get Mad commenced a sweeping move approaching the quarter pole, taking control while about seven paths wide. He drew clear under urging late and was increasing the advantage as he finished.
Unbridled Energy finished second under Rafael Bejarano, 2 3/4 lengths in front of late-rallying Real Dandy, ridden by Mike Smith. First Word, the 3-2 second choice, faded to fourth with Jerry Bailey aboard.
Bucharest and Crimson Stag trailed.
Don't Get Mad earned $134,788 for the fourth win in eight career starts to increase his bankroll to $425,200 for owner B. Wayne Hughes.
He paid $3.80, $2.80, and $2.10. Unbridled Energy, who was coming off a win in the Marine (Can-III) at Woodbine May 21, returned $5.40 and $2.60. Real Dandy was $2.60 to show.