After nearly blowing the final turn, Saint Liam went on to win the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) with authority Saturday at Gulfstream Park, pulling away by 3 3/4 lengths at the end.
Saint Liam eclipsed the $1 million mark in career earnings with his first grade I victory.
The 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado collared the 13-10 favorite Roses in May early on the backstretch and pulled clear heading into the far turn. He made things interesting, however, by swinging extremely wide while coming off of the turn. But under jockey Edgar Prado, Saint Liam held Roses in May safe through the lane, pulling away from that rival again, and there were no further challenges in the 1 1/8-mile event. The final time was 1:48 2/5.
"I knew Roses in May was the horse to beat, but I had a horse with a lot of talent, too," Prado said. "He's been working real good in the mornings. I had a good feeling that he was going to win when he pulled away effortlessly."
Eddington, who was coming off an 8 3/4-length victory at Gulfstream, rallied mildly in the stretch to get third after bobbling at the start, with Seek Gold fourth in a field of six.
Winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who saddled Sis City for victory in the Davona Dale (gr. II) earlier in the Gulfstream card, enjoyed an outstanding day.
Saint Liam, who gave 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper his toughest race– losing by a neck – in last fall's Woodward (gr. I), proved that effort was no fluke. He drifted out on the final turn of the Woodward as well.
"I don't know why he (drifts out), but I knew if he got to run his game he'd be tough," Dutrow said. "I hope we haven't seen his best race yet.
"I really wouldn't mind going to Dubai (for the World Cup March 26) but I don't know if the owners want to do that. I'm not particularly eager to run against Ghostzapper just yet. Bobby (Frankel) told me to have my fun now, because he (Ghostzapper) would be back soon."
Saint Liam was coming off a 1 1/4-length triumph in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 26, which was his first graded stakes win.
Roses in May was intent on getting the early lead for John Velazquez, setting the pace by three-quarters of a length over Saint Liam through an opening quarter-mile of :23 3/5. But Roses in May, carrying 121 pounds, two more than Saint Liam, could not keep Saint Liam off for long. Saint Liam was in front after a half-mile in :47 1/5 and kept the pressure on while going 1:11. In spite of his problems on the turn, Saint Liam proved to be much the best.
Roses in May, who was using the Donn as a prep for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) next month, kept to the task through the lane, holding off Eddington by three-quarters of a length. Eddington got rolling too late to make an impact on the winner.
"He did everything he could out there today," trainer Dale Romans said. "Hopefully he will move forward off this and he will be ready for Dubai."
Saint Liam's sixth win in 14 lifetime starts was worth $300,000 to owner Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr., increasing his bankroll to $1,060,035. Edward P. Evans bred the winner, who is out of the Quiet American
mare Quiet Dance, in Kentucky.
Saint Liam paid $5.60, $3 and $2.20 as the second choice in the field. Roses in May returned $2.60 and $2.10. Eddington was $2.20 to show.
It was 8 1/2 lengths back to Seek Gold, with Pies Prospect and Wishingitwas trailing.