The Brazilian-bred Out of Control stole the spotlight from Lava Man and Surf Cat in Oak Tree's $252,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) with a heart-pounding nose victory over Zann at Santa Anita Park Oct. 7.
The race means a slot in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park for Out of Control, who is trained by Bobby Frankel for owner/breeder T N T Stud. Frankel was in New York. There was no word on Out of Control's Breeders' Cup plans, but he reportedly is nominated.
Ridden by Michael Baze, the 4-year-old Out Of Control bid three-wide on the final turn to get a short lead in upper stretch. He battled on the front-end to hold off Get Funky and Surf Cat while drifting a bit through the lane, then was under strong urging to nip the late-arriving outsider Zann in the final stride.
"I had Lava Man boxed in down the backside and I wanted to do everything I could to hold him in there at the rail," said Baze, who has been serving a riding suspension. "My horse took off when I asked him, and when he saw (Zann) coming on his outside, he dug in and ran as hard as he could. This is such a relief. I've been at home watching the races on TV.”
Courtnall, who loomed dangerously in the stretch, flattened out late to finish third, one length behind Zann. The final time was 1:34.16.
Lava Man, the multiple grade I winner of more than $5.2 million and the 13-10 favorite in the field of six, fell out to last in the final turn and weakened in the stretch for Corey Nakatani.
"He has been having some issues, I believe," Nakatani said. "I don’t know what they are, but hopefully, the warrior that he is, he’ll get over them and get back to the old Lava Man that we all know. There was no energy level there at all. He’s not up underneath me, and he’s not going--not going forward. I’ll talk to (trainer) Doug (O’Neill) and get back to the drawing board with him to see what the deal is.”
Second choice Surf Cat, a top West Coast sprinter making his turf debut for trainer Bruce Headley, pulled his way to the front from his inside post while carving fractions of :23.33, :47.33, and 1:10.85. Surf Cat tired in the stretch to finish fifth.
Out of Control raced in Brazil until this year. He has compiled a 4-2-1 record in eight U.S. starts, including a head victory over The Tin Man in the American Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Hollywood Park turf June 30. The dark bay Vettori colt followed that effort with a second-place finish, 1 1/2 lengths behind After Market, in Del Mar's Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) July 22.
He came into the Oak Tree Mile off a sixth-place showing -- though beaten only 2 1/2 lengths -- in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT). The victory, worth $150,000, bumped Out of Control's lifetime earnings to $487,371 with five wins in 11 starts.
Sent off as the third choice in the short field, the winner paid $9.80, $5, and $4.20. Zann, who ran fifth in the Del Mar Mile last time out, returned $7.20 and $5.40 with Aaron Gryder aboard. Courtnall, second in this race a year ago for trainer Craig Dollase, returned $8 to show for David Flores.
“He ran great," trainer Mike Machowsky said of the runner-up. "It was maybe a touch short for him, but he ran super.”
Get Funky finished fourth.