Washington invader Flamethrowintexan went gate to wire in his turf debut to win the $141,250 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a head over favored Fantastic Spain Saturday on the turf in San Mateo.
With regular rider Ricky Frazier making the trip for trainer Jim Penney, Flamethrowintexan responded gamely when collared by the 17-10 choice Fantastic Spain and Russell Baze, who got through along the inside in deep stretch.
"I knew he'd run big," said Frazier. "He worked on the turf (on Oct. 21) and acted like he loved it. He handled it great today. In the stretch I thought Russell had me, and I bet Russell thought he had me, but as soon as my horse saw his horse he wasn't going to let him by. I had already asked my horse for everything before Russell came up to us, but he still had more. It's all him. I'm just happy to be the passenger."
The winning time was 1:47 3/5 for the nine-furlong event contested on firm going.
Winner of the Longacres Mile (gr. III) at Emerald Downs Aug. 20, the 5-year-old Flamethrowintexan was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) Sept. 30.
Flamethrowintexan, under 117 pounds, broke on top from the far outside in the field of six and settled into a one-length lead over Now Victory as they clicked off fractions of :23 3/5, :47 and 1:11. With Now Victory - carrying top weight of 120 pounds - tiring in the stretch, Place Cowboy on the outside and Fantastic Spain picked up the pressure through the drive, but neither could overcome the winner.
Kay Cooper saddled Flamethrowintexan for Penney. She and her husband, former jockey Bryson Cooper, handle the Penney runners.
"I was really impressed with the way he finished in his turf work," said Kay Cooper. "He really digs in. Some people say he looks like a horse with no ears because he flattens them and doesn't want a horse to go by him. Ricky said at the eighth-pole he turned his head to let him see (Fantastic Spain) and Flame did the rest."
Fantastic Spain, who shipped from Southern California for trainer Neil Drysdale, finished 1 1/4 lengths clear of the Argentine-bred Don Incauto, who closed steadily and nosed Grafton for third. Place Cowboy and Now Victory trailed.
Baze said Flamethrowintexan was simply too tough for Fantastic Spain.
"I think I was on the second best horse," said Baze. "I had a dream trip on the rail and had every chance to get by him. That other horse dug in and wouldn't let me by. I was hoping they had softened him up for me, but he doesn't get softened up. That is one nice son of a gun."
Flamethrowintexan, a Florida-bred gelding by Way West, earned $82,500 for owner Paul J. Heist with his third victory in six tries in 2006. Lifetime, the chestnut owns a 15-4-2 record in 25 starts and earnings of $800,017.
The fourth choice, Flamethrowintexan paid $12.60, $$5.20, and $2.80. Fantastic Spain, who was fourth behind The Tin Man in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. IT) in his last start, returned $3.20 and $2.40 to complete a $44.40 exacta. Don Incauto, with Chad Schvaneveldt aboard, was $2.80 to show.