Standard Setter surprised Saturday's $100,000 Golden Gate Derby (gr. III) field with a front-running victory at odds of 17-1.
The only California bred in the field of 10 in the first derby of the year, the 3-year-old chestnut son of Benchmark held off Ozzie Cat by a neck in a tremendous stretch run. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds on a muddy track was 1:43.76.
With Roberto Gonzalez in the irons, Standard Setter set solid fractions of :22.33, :45, 42 and 1:10.69 en route to victory. Ozzie Cat, a son of Storm Cat ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., was close-up in third on the backstretch and made a move on the outside to challenge the leader at the top of the stretch, but could not get control.
Pine For Java, a length back, rallied to get third by 3/4 length over Spensive, the 9-5 second choice.
"This horse chipped a knee in the stakes at Pleasanton," said trainer Jeff Bonde, referring to the Alameda County Futurity on July 5. "We knew he was a good one and we gave him plenty of time to recover."
Standard Setter was making his first try around two turns and only his second start following a 5 1/2-month layoff.
Despite having run fast early, Standard Setter still had something left as he gamely out-finished Ozzie Cat.
"[Ozzie Cat] got his neck in front of me at the eighth pole and he had me until the final 50 yards, when my horse dug in and rallied," said Gonzalez.
"[Standard Setter] looked like he was running off early, so I knew he was going to come back to us," said Valdivia. "Well, he fooled me. You have to take your hat off to Bobby and that horse. They just kept on going and ran a hell of race."
Russell Baze, aboard Spensive, said the Bob Baffert-trained sophomore had problems with the track.
"He was slipping real bad out there," said Baze. "He galloped up to them nicely but then he got tired. I think he used up too much energy keeping his feet under him and then he ran out of gas on me."
It was the second win in seven career starts for Standard Setter, who picked up a $60,000 winner's check for owners Philip Lebherz and Richard Meister, who bred him. Standard Setter went over the $100,000 mark in earnings with his win.
Standard Setter paid $36.80, $14.80 and $8.60. Ozzie Cat, the 8-5 favorite, returned $3.80 and $3. The show price for pine For Java was $4.80. The $2 exacta was $157.80.