The turn-back in distance to seven furlongs did the trick for the slumping Sun King, who charged from seventh in the stretch to win Keeneland's $443,200 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II) going away Saturday.
Sun King, who had one horse beaten after a half-mile, waited behind his rivals around the far turn and was angled out for the drive by Corey Nakatani. He impressively swept past the pacesetting Kazoo in deep stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths. The winning time was a so-so 1:23 1/5 on a hot and windy day in Lexington.
The 4-year-old Sun King, who ran last of eight in his previous start, the 1 3/16-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), returned to the winner's circle for the first time since taking the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) in September. A winner of three graded stakes during his sophomore season for trainer Nick Zito, the son of Charismatic had lost four in a row.
To turn things around, Sun King cut back to seven furlongs for the first time in his career and raced with blinkers for the first time since his fourth-place finish in the 2005 Preakness (gr. I). The victory, his sixth in 17 lifetime starts for owner Tracy Farmer, was worth $274,784 and pushed his earnings to $1,659,494.
Nakatani rode the Kentucky-bred Sun King, who carried 120 pounds, for the first time in the Commonwealth. Cambridge Farm and James Daniel Conway bred Sun King, who is out of the Clever Trick mare Clever But Costly and cost $400,000 at Keeneland in January 2003.
Kazoo, an impressive four-length winner of the six-furlong Toboggan Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct one month ago, very nearly ran the legs off his 11 rivals, clicking off swift fractions of :21 4/5, :44 1/5 and 1:09 2/5. But after opening a 2 1/2-length advantage over Spanish Chestnut at the furlong marker, Kazoo, ridden by Richard Migliore, faltered as he closed in on the wire while still holding onto the place spot by a nose over Spanish Chestnut and Julien Leparoux.
Kelly's Landing, the 3-1 choice, gave way to finish last after racing in mid-pack on the outside under Edgar Prado.
Sun King, the morning line favorite, ended up going off as the fifth choice and paid $16.40, $8 and $5. He ran fourth, beaten by more than nine lengths by Bandini, in his only other start at Keeneland in last year's Bluegrass (gr. I).
Kazoo, who sought his third win in four starts, returned $11.40 and $7.80. The $2 exacta was worth $156.40. Spanish Chestnut, in his second start since a 16th-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for trainer Patrick Biancone, was $5 to show.
Saintly Look finished fourth, followed by Fifteen Rounds, Vicarage, Cougar Cat, Crafty Schemer, Mister Fotis, Wild Tale, Straight Line and Kelly's Landing.