Ridden for the first time by Michael Baze, who won his fourth race of the day, the Irish-bred Heatseeker loomed up on the outside as the field spread out seven across the track mid-stretch. He came home strongest of all, defeating another outsider, Racketeer, by 1 1/2 lengths. Isipingo finished a non-threatening third after a crowded trip. Final time for the 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track was an excellent 1:47.23.
Ravel, the only 3-year-old in the field of 10, finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite.
Heatseeker, whose lone win in six North American starts for Bobby Frankel came via disqualification, has now won two of three since being moved to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Owned by William de Burgh, the 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt captured a seven-furlong allowance race on the Santa Anita Cushion Track for Hollendorfer Oct. 8 before a seventh-place finish in the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course three weeks later.
Hollendorfer earned his 4,994th career victory as he approaches a milestone reached by only three others -- Dale Baird (9,442), Jack Van Berg (6,378) and King Leatherbury (6,225).
"I'd like to concentrate on this win. This is a really nice horse by Giant's Causeway and he just did everything right today," he said. "We've been working and working with him and he did really well. He had some speed to set him up so he laid off the pace and ran them down."
Masterpiece took the lead from Buzzards Bay heading into the clubhouse turn and settled into even fractions of :23 2/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5 before being overtaken by Bold Chieftain near the quarter pole. In the homestretch, there was something of a calvary charge as the likes of Buzzards Bay, Ravel and others sought running room. Meantime, Heatseeker moved into position while wide in the lane and Racketeer, ridden by Rafael Bejarano lined up behind that one as they surged to the lead.
"I worked this horse the last six or seven times," Baze said. "This is the kind of horse you have to be patient with because he has a huge kick and you just have to save it for that last part. Fortunately I had a nice outside trip and was able to wait and wait and wait. They all bunched up in front of him and he was just dragging me along, waiting to go."
Trained in Ireland by by David Wachman, Heatseeker won an allowance at Tipperary in August 2005 before running third in the National Stakes (Ire-I) at Curragh six weeks later. Heatseeker was off an entire year before making his U.S. bow for Frankel in a six-furlong allowance race on the Belmont Park turf, finishing eighth as the 11-10 favorite.
Heatseeker carried 115 pounds -- five fewer than the top-weighted Buzzards Bay and Arson Squad -- to his fifth lifetime win in 12 starts. He also has three seconds and a third. Richard F. Barnes bred the chestnut. Heatseeker banked $71,800 to raise his earnings to $262,223.
Sent off as the third longest shot in the field, Heatseeker paid a whopping $63.40, $20.60 and $10.60. Racketeer, making his first start for Frankel since a May victory over the Hollywood all-weather surface, returned $9.40 and $5.40. He rounded out a $2 exacta worth $462.60. Isipingo, making his first synthetic track start, was $6.20 to show with Aaron Gryder aboard.
The lightly raced Ravel, a top 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail last winter, made his first Southern California start since winning the Sham (gr. III) in February at Santa Anita after suffering a hairline fracture injury.
“He kind of got stuck down inside most of the way," Pletcher said of Ravel. "But you know, one of the things we were concerned about going in was that this is a pretty lightly raced horse going up against some seasoned and older horses with a lot more starts under their belts. So it’s a good education for him, and we learned a little bit about the way he needs to be ridden. Hopefully we’ll improve on it next time. We’re thinking the Stub series for him next over at Santa Anita.”