Millennium Farms' Super Frolic, making his second start for Southern California trainer Vladimir Cerin, wore down Lord of the Game in the final furlong to win the $750,000 Hawthone Gold Cup (gr. II) on a slick course in Chicago Saturday.
Ridden with determination by Victor Espinoza, Super Frolic closed on the outside to edge a stubborn Lord of the Game by a head. After getting the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Espinoza and Super Frolic were all out to hold off Lord of the Game and Eusebio Razo Jr., who came back along the inside to just miss.
"I was concerned with the off track," Cerin said. "I thought Desert Boom would have a big advantage since he has such good off-track form but I think the distance really helped us."
Pacesetter Desert Boom and Roberto Gonzalez finished a game third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, but 4-5 favorite Perfect Drift never fired on the sloppy track and finished a distant fourth in the field of 10. The final time was 2:03 3/5 for the 1 1/4-mile event.
There was little change in the first four places of the race as Desert Boom took the field along through fractions of :23 2/5, :48 and 1:12 1/5 while well off the rail. Lord of the Game made the first move to take the lead after they completed the mile 1:37 3/5 but was challenged again by Desert Boom, who surged on after coming off the far turn. Super Frolic, who raced on the outside while tracking the leaders throughout, loomed up to challenge and continued to race wide through the lane.
Super Frolic was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar after being transferred to Cerin from the East Coast barn of Howard Wolfendale. Super Frolic began the year in Florida with Milton Wolfson and has won three of his seven starts in 2005.
"We came here because we secretly still had hopes for the Breeders' Cup," Cerin said. "We thought we had a much better horse than the one who finished fifth in the Pacific Classic.
"I got him only 18 days before the Pacific Classic so I still don't have him totally figured out. He's more than paid back his purchase price."
Espinoza, who rode Super Frolic for the first time, said the race unfolded perfectly.
"I thought this horse would run big," said Espinoza, covered in mud. "He ran huge against better horses in the Pacific Classic."
Asked if he thought the horse, who won for the first time in three starts on off going, improved in the rain, Espinoza hesitated and answered, "Now that I won, I believe you could say it helped.
"When I took the lead, he waited for the other horse a little bit. In the final sixteenth, he was challenged by the runner to our inside (Lord of the Game) and neither gave in, but we were just a little better today."
Razo said Lord of the Game didn't see the challenger at first.
"When the other horse passed him he dug in and was coming back on him," he said. "I think if there was enough time he would have come back and gotten him."
Super Frolic, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Pine Bluff
-Lindsay Frolic (by Mt. Livermore), earned his 11th victory in 31 career starts and more than doubled his bankroll to $848,854 for Ro Parra and Millennium Farms.
The second choice in the field, he paid $10.60, $6.60, and $5.60. Lord of the Game, a former $10,000 claimer who went over the $400,000 mark in career earnings, returned $14 and $8.80. Desert Boom, another California shipper, was $6.20 to show.
Perfect Drift, a winner of more than $3.6 million who just missed in a second-place finish to Borrego in the Pacific Classic, didn't handle the track. The winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup in 2003 and second in the race last year, he finished nearly six lengths behind after offering a mild response on the turn and falling back.
Mark Guidry felt he thought he had Perfect Drift in the garden spot on the final turn.
"But, after that, it seemed like whenever I got busy and really riding him, trying to get a little more out of him, he started slipping and sliding," he said. "I don't want to blame the track condition but down the lane, he just ran kind of even. He wasn't picking up any horses."
Home of Stars finished fifth, followed by Good Reward, Fantasticat, Collateral Damage, defending Gold Cup winner Freefourinternet, and Mambo Train.