Rated R Superstar closed from the clouds and snuck wide down the lane, surprising 2-5 favorite Awesome Banner to win the $150,000 Carry Back Stakes (gr. III) July 2 at Gulfstream Park. With the victory, the 3-year-old Kodiak Kowboy gelding punched his ticket to the Aug. 27 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
"It was thrilling. This is a horse that always showed talent," trainer Ken McPeek said. "He has pedigree that says 'sprint.' He's a good, handy horse."
The 5-2 second choice in a field of seven, Rated R Superstar came off a gritty May 30 allowance victory for Radar Racing at Churchill Downs.
This time, Rated R Superstar rallied strongly around the far turn under jockey Cornelio Velasquez after Awesome Banner set the pace through opening fractions of :22.37, :44.59, and 1:08.95. He still had several lengths to make up on the leader as the field turned for home, but despite veering out down the lane, he built enough momentum to edge past by three-quarters of a length in the shadow of the wire.
"That was the plan (to make one run), but there wasn't too much speed in the race," Velasquez said. "My horse came fast in the end. At the quarter-pole I thought I had a lot of horse—he was going easy—and then I asked him the last three-sixteenths and he came on. I think he can be a pretty nice sprinter. He ran long and I think he didn't like it. Maybe seven-eighths is the best distance for him."
"He was a lot closer this time than he was in his allowance race, at least going around the turn, and even though he had a lot of ground to make up, I felt confident," said Mark Edwards, a member of the Radar Racing group.
The final time for seven furlongs was 1:22.09 on a fast track.
Rated R Superstar returned $7.40, $2.80, and $2.20 while Awesome Banner paid $2.10 and $2.10. Bullet Gone Astray, off at odds of 30-1, checked in for third sixth lengths back and brought $4.20. Dream of Me, Discreet Angel, Li'l Meatball, and Jacapone completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Thorndale Stable out of the Gold Case mare Wicked Wish, Rated R Superstar improved his record to 3-4-2 from 11 starts. He was second in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) and third in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) as a 2-year-old.
"He ran respectable in some of those big races last year as a 2-year-old," McPeek said. "It seemed like he couldn't get over the hump in them, and we decided to shorten him up."