Just Wonder Scores Ascot Win at Bay Meadows

British-bred Just Wonder wore down the leaders in the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Ascot Handicap for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 mile on the turf at Bay Meadows decisively.

Ridden by Russell Baze for trainer Laura De Seroux and owners Naify, Sugarman and Vistas, et al, the 9-10 favorite in the seven-horse field defeated 12-1 Rapier Dance by two lengths. Obermeister, 18-1, was a head back in third. Final time was 1:42 3/5 on a firm course.

The bay son of Hernando was allowed to languish near the rear of the pack while saving ground into the final turn. Baze swung Just Wonder four wide into the stretch and he gradually worked his way past Rapier Dance and pace-setting Obermeister in the stretch.

Obermeister set fractions of :22 4/5 while taking a 3 1/2 length lead in the opening quarter-mile, :47 and 1:11 2/5 before getting a serious challenge from the stalking Rapier Dance.

Helms Deep, the 2-1 second choice, finished sixth.

Just Wonder won for the second time in four United States starts this year. He previously raced twice in France. Just Wonder was sixth in the San Rafael (gr. II) at one mile on the dirt at Santa Anita on March 1, and came back with a fifth-place finish in the one-mile La Puente on the Santa Anita turf April 12. The $55,000 Ascot purse pushed his career earnings to $108,997 for three career wins in six starts.

The winner paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40. Rapier Dance, ridden by Chance Rollins, returned $6.40 and $3.80. Obermeister, with Jose Rivera Jr. aboard, showed for $5.60. The $2 exacta was worth $24.40.

(Chart, Equibase)