Trainer Juan "Paco" Gonzalez shipped Came Home to Saratoga to avoid running against Officer and the gambit proved successful Saturday when Came Home drew off to a two-length victory in the $200,000 Hopeful Stakes. The winning time of 1:21.94 marks the fastest running of the Hopeful at its present distance of seven furlongs.
Proud Citizen broke slowly from the gate as Roman Dancer rushed to the lead on the fast track under slight pressure from Came Home. Track-record setting maiden winner Mayakovsky was in just behind the leaders as Saratoga Special (gr. II) winner Jump Start raced in the next flight. Came Home ranged up alongside Roman Dancer under no urging from jockey Chris McCarron, then repelled a challenge from Mayakovsy before pulling away in the stretch.
"He ran super today, he was very professional. I wasn't concerned when Jorge (Chavez aboard Roman Dancer) came up inside on the backstretch because he was one of the longest shots in the field. I was concerned with Mayakovsky," said McCarron. "I couldn't tell how much horse Edgar (Prado) had and how he was riding. So, I didn't ask my horse to run until we straightened away. He really gave me an extra gear and dug in. He galloped out great."
Mayakovsky came home second, 6 3/4 lengths in front of Thunder Days. Roman Dancer, Jump Start, Proud Citizen, and Deputy Connor completed the order of finish.
Came Home returned $4.30, $3, and $2.40. Mayakovsky paid $4.60 and $3.80. Thunder Days was worth $4.90 to show. The winning exacta combination paid $17.80.
Came Home (Gone West -- Nice Assay, by Clever Trick) is a John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery homebred and a half-brother of A.P. Assay. The 2-year-old colt won at first asking in June at Hollywood Park and then returned in July to win the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) by three lengths. Came Home earned $120,000 for the win, his third in three starts.
The win makes Came Home eligible for a $250,000 bonus should he go on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) as part of the Bessemer Trust 2-Year-Old Challenge, a series of races for juvenile colts that will be televised by CNBC.
The trainers of the top three finishers all mentioned the Champagne (gr. I) as the possible next start for their horses. (Chart, Equibase