Mister Fotis was all out to hold off Sir Greeley in a slight upset in the $189,000 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Gulfstream Park as Silver Train, the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) champion, was not a factor.
The 5-year-old Mister Fotis took command for Rafael Bejarano coming off the turn in the seven-furlong Richter Scale and dug in down the lane under strong urging to hold off Sir Greeley by a diminishing neck. The time, 1:21 3/5 on a fast track, was one-fifth of a second off the track record.
"I tried to hold him back because there was so much speed in the race, but he was running good," Bejarano said. "At the top of the stretch I let him out a little bit, and when I saw (Sir Greeley) coming at me I let him out some more. He took care of everything from there."
Middle Earth, pressured by Sir Greeley and Mister Fotis, had the early lead as they completed the opening quarter mile in :22 1/5 and the half in :44 4/5 before Mister Fotis took them through six furlongs in 1:09. Sir Greeley rallied under John Velazquez but just missed. It was 2 1/4 lengths back to the late-running Universal Form, ridden by Manoel Cruz, who overtook Judiths Wild Rush to get third by 1 1/4 lengths.
Silver Train, second in the Eclipse balloting for top U.S. sprinter behind Lost in the Fog after his wins in the Jerome (gr. II) and the BC Sprint last year, broke in mid-pack under top weight of 120 pounds, but fell back in the field of nine down the backstretch and was never involved, finishing seventh. He had trained strongly for his first start since the Breeders' Cup.
"I was concerned he wouldn't run on this track," trainer Rick Dutrow admitted. "It looks like that's what it was. I didn't see him ever look like he was ever going to run his kind of race at any point."
Marty Wolfson trains Mister Fotis, a Florida-bred chestnut son of Diligence
who notched his first graded stakes win for owner Alago Inc. A 6 3/4-length winner of the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder Race Course in December, Mister Fotis was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Jan. 28. Mister Fotis won for the sixth time in 21 races, earning $120,000 for the victory and pushing his career bankroll to $410,440.
"I knew he'd be in front today," Wolfson said. "Seven-eighths is his distance. My only concern today was the post-position (2). If he had been outside, he could have cleared easily, but Rafael had to get into him a little bit.
Mister Fotis paid $10.80, $5.20, and $4.40. Sir Greeley, who defeated Funny Cide in a one-mile optional claiming race last out, returned $4.20 and $4.20. Universal Form, who won the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Feb. 5, was $9.40 to show.
Wild Tale finished fifth, three-quarters of a length behind Judiths Wild Rush. Middle Earth, Silver Train, Bull Ranch, and Pirate King trailed.