Favored Cowboy Cal gained victory in the $150,000 Bryan Station Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) when Keeneland stewards disqualified the original winner, Seaspeak, for interference in the stretch Oct. 12.
Cowboy Cal, ridden by John Velazquez, lost by a head in a hard-fought stretch run on the Keeneland turf. But stewards, following a five-minute review, reversed the order, determining that Seaspeak and jockey Kent Desormeaux were guilty of bumping Cowboy Cal after engaging the leader in upper stretch on the outside.
The call made a winner of Robert and Janice McNair's Cowboy Cal in his first start since finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Trainer Todd Pletcher gave the Stonerside Stable homebred plenty of time to recover from that effort after he bled that day.
The final time for the Bryan Station, a one-mile event for 3-year-olds, was 1:35.70 on firm going.
After breaking on the lead, Cowboy Cal settled mid-pack along the inside as St. Joe, bursting out to an eventual six-length lead on the backstretch, set a solid pace of :23.38, :46.12, and 1:11.26 for the opening six furlongs. Velazquez angled Cowboy Cal three wide on the backside and took the lead coming into the stretch as the 12-1 shot Seaspeak rallied into contention. In upper stretch, Seaspeak collared the 9-5 favorite and they fought it out from there, with Seaspeak crowding Cowboy Cal through the lane and bumping a couple of times before prevailing in the final jumps. Deal Making ran third, 3 1/4 lengths behind the first two.
“I think it was just a little bit of race-riding (on Desormeaux's part)," Velazquez said after picking up his second graded win of the weekend at Keeneland. "I don’t know; I wasn’t sure what he was doing.
"My horse got to the lead and started waiting and when (Seaspeak) came to him, he started fighting right back," Velazquez added. "(Cowboy Cal) put his head in front of the other horse, and the other horse started leaning on him and kind of took him off balance down the lane. (Seaspeak) leaned on his back end and (Cowboy Cal) kind of lost his balance the last 100 yards, and he put a head in front of me and that’s how I got beat.
“I think (Cowboy Cal) would have won the race if the other horse doesn’t lean so hard on his back end. He was very game, definitely.”
Desormeaux blamed Cowboy Cal for the initial contact.
“He drifted into me first at the top of the stretch," he said. "My horse ran an amazing race.”
Cowboy Cal, named for the McNairs' son, was one of the horses the couple kept after selling their farm and horses to Darley recently. The son of Giant's Causeway --Texas Tammy, by Seeking the Gold, has won four of five starts on grass with one second. Cowboy Cal captured the Laurel Futurity on the turf as a 2-year-old, then started his sophomore campaign with a victory in the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) at Calder Race Course Jan. 1.
Pletcher tried the dark bay colt on Keeneland's Polytrack for the first time in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 12. After a huge front-running second-place effort -- losing by a neck to stablemate Monba -- Cowboy Cal entered the Kentucky Derby, where he tired after pressing the pace.
Cowboy Cal earned his fourth win in eight lifetime starts and boosted his earnings to $407,708 with the winner's share of $93,000.
He paid $5.60, $4.20, and $3, topping a $2 exacta worth $64.80. Seaspeak, a son of Mizzen Mast making his graded stakes debut for trainer Alex Clarkson, returned $10 and $5.60. Deal Making, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, finished up well and was $4.40 to show.
Big Stick finished fourth, followed by Veiled Prophet, Nistle's Crunch, Coronel Moldes, Ready's Image, St. Joe, Mr. Maccool, and Montana Mike. Stormy Ballad scratched.