The wire got there just in time for True to Tradition, who nosed 52-1 shot Rouse the Cat for victory in the Nearctic Stakes (Can-II) (VIDEO), a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race on the Woodbine turf Oct. 4.
Ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, the 6-year-old Rahy gelding edged past the stubborn pacesetter Starticus in the final sixteenth of a mile of Woodbine's long homestretch and reached the finish barely in front of the rallying Rouse the Cat in the six-furlong event. The final time was 1:09.11.
True to Tradition, owned by Ben Mondello and Adam Russo and trained by Scott Lake, gains an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Oct. 25.
“This is my biggest win as an owner," Mondello said. "My feet won’t hit the ground until we hit Santa Anita. California here we come. We book the ticket tomorrow.”
Sent off at 8-1, True to Tradition was forwardly placed in the Nearctic by Carmouche, tracking the front-running Starticus, who shook clear rounding the turn after posting solid fractions of :22.63 and :44.99. Down the stretch, though, True to Tradition was poised to sweep past Starticus and Corey Fraser on the outside. But the leader, who owns the track record for the distance (1:07.39), proved difficult to overcome. Rouse the Cat, racing in fourth just off the rail for jockey Christopher VanHassel at the eighth pole, finished up strongly to just miss. Starticus finished three-quarters of a length behind in third.
True to Tradition was coming off a four-length win in the Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park Sept. 1. The bay has won three of his past four starts.
Lake said the key was adding blinkers after True to Tradition lost a stakes race in Maryland by a neck to Heros Reward, who finished fourth in the Nearctic after winning the race a year ago.
“He kind of hung a little bit at the end, so we decided to put the blinkers on him and he’s just really responded to it," Lake said. "He’s been very focused since then.”
Favored Hellvelyn raced in mid-pack along the inside into the stretch, then flattened out after making a bid while finishing sixth.
True to Tradition logged his 10th win 23 starts and boosted his earnings to $670,651 with the winner's share of $277,410. He has won seven times in 15 starts on turf.
Bred in Kentucky by Live Oak Stud, True to Tradition is out Successful Dancer, by Fortunate Prospect.
The winner paid $18.40, $11.70 and $7.70. Rouse the Cat, who ran third in the Turf Monster last time for trainer Ollie Figgins III, returned $41.80 and $19.40 and completed a $2 exacta worth $572.80. Starticus, making his graded stakes debut after running second in the Arlington Sprint Handicap last time out, was $9.60 to show.
Heros Reward was followed by Storm Treasure, Hellvelyn, The Great Caruso, Just Rushing, Quietly Mine, Off Duty, Mulmur and Santiago Atitlan.