Rapid Proof unleashed a powerful kick in the stretch run to nip defending champion Warleigh by a head in the $216,000 John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park Saturday night.Bred and owned by Dolphus Morrison of Birmingham, Ala, Rapid Proof proved that his win in the $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) last month at Fair Grounds, was no fluke. Brian Hernandez, Jr., who rode the 5-year-old son of Fast Play in New Orleans, had the return call and gave trainer Hal Wiggins his third Connally Breeders' Cup Turf victory. Wiggins also conditioned Chorwon, who won the 1998 and 1999 editions of the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf.Warleigh won last year's Connally in gate-to-wire fashion and looked as though he would register the repeat. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Warleigh was sent to the lead by rider Corey Lanerie and set fractions of 25.24 for the first quarter and 49.31 for the half-mile. He had built a 1 ¾-length lead at the top of the stretch but could not hold off Rapid Proof in a stirring drive for the wire. The time of the 1 1/8-mile event on a firm turf course was 1:51.31."His win tonight was a lot like the race at the Fair Grounds," said Hernandez. "The horse on the lead (Warleigh) was two in front, but I knew I had a lot of horse. We had a wall of horses backing up in front of us and we got lucky and got through, just like we did at the Fair Grounds. He's such a great horse. He knows where the wire is."Wiggins was surrounded by friends and family and gave much of the credit to his rider."The horse got stopped twice on the backside and Brian was very patient and came through a hole in the stretch and got him there right at the end," Wiggins said. "A very, very good ride.""You couldn't ask for a more professional ride than what Brian gave us tonight," added Morrison, who has employed Wiggins for 25 years. "We've won a lot of money and lost a lot of money, but we've had a great time and have a great horse."Rapid Proof earned $129,600, boosting his career earnings to $679,303. After Warleigh came Asmussen's second entrant in the race, Dynareign, who ran third with Don Simington aboard.
"I was able to get the lead and back up the pace and my horse was full of run when we turned for home," said Lanerie of Warleigh. "I thought the winner was going to go by us easy, but my horse dug in and wasn't going to let him go by. They just got us at the wire."Rapid Proof, sent off as the second betting choice, paid $6.40 for the win. Social King, Val's Approval, Wire Bound, three-time Connally champion Candid Glen, and Herculated completed the order of finish.(Chart, Equibase)