Edward White and Michael Paulson's Hap stalked the leaders in third place through the early going en route to his first career stakes win, a 1 1/4-length victory in Friday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. The 4-year-old son of Theatrical -- bred by the late Allen Paulson -- completed the 1 1/8 miles in a fast 1:45.82 over a firm turf course.
Jockey Jerry Bailey kept Hap well back in third as Gone Fishin and Musical Ghost dueled on the front end through quick early fractions of :22.85 and :46.30. Bailey moved Hap into contention while three wide on the second turn, moving within a length of the leader after six furlongs run in 1:10.27. Hap surged to the lead soon after, held off second-place finisher Inexplicable in the stretch, and completed the final furlong in :11.97 to ensure the victory.
"When he came by us the first time, I thought we might get shuffled back, but we actually went into the turn in third," said Bill Mott, Hap's trainer. "Even if he got shuffled, there was a strong pace and he might have been OK anyway. You get these kind of trips with Bailey. He gets to the right spot most of the time."
Draw Shot finished third, followed by Royal Strand, End of the Road, and Holditholditholdit. Floriselli and Gone Fishin finished in a dead heat for seventh, a length in front of Phi Beta Doc. Val's Prince, Musical Ghost, Thesaurus, and Mountain Ballad completed the order of finish. Youknowwhatimean was scratched.
In a 13-horse field with 12 wagering interests, the betting favorite won and the second-favorite completed the exacta. Hap paid $9.20, $4.80, and $3.40. The winning exacta combination was worth $52.
Hap earned $90,000 for the win, his fifth in eight career starts, all on turf. He finished second in the $200,000 Steinlen Stakes at Gulfstream Park in November and has a maiden win and three allowance wins to his credit. (Chart, Equibase