Kate's Main Man, third behind Win Willy in a stakes at Oaklawn Park last month, turned the tables on his rival with a front-running win in the $100,000 Essex Handicap under clear skies at Oaklawn Park Feb. 13 (VIDEO).
The Essex originally was scheduled for Feb. 5 but was delayed due to freezing weather that forced the track to cancel racing that day.
Ridden by Calvin Borel, Kate's Main Man held off even-money choice Win Willy, who was gaining on the inside through the lane, for a three-quarters of a length victory. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event for older horses was 1:45.12 on a fast track.
Red-hot Randy Morse trains Kate's Main Man, a 6-year-old Iowa-bred gelding by Bernstein, for owner Randy Patterson, alongtime trainer who won for the first time at Oaklawn.
“My horse is never going to be able to say he's a better horse than Win Willy," Morse said. "He had everything against him today and he's such a nice horse. We just got a break with the way the race set up. Going in we just had to hope no one went and got silly and tried to challenge us early."
Kate's Main Man got away quickly to open a clear advantage in the opening quarter-mile and led Sky's the Limit through comfortable quarter-mile fractions of :24.39, :48.37, and 1:13. The second choice in the field of six, Kate's Main Man edged away to a 2 1/2-length lead mid-stretch and lasted the final furlong as Win Willy ran out of time under Cliff Berry.
Stachys, ridden by Francisco Torres, was one length back in third after a stalking trip.
Last time in the 1 1/16-mile Fifth Season Stakes, Kate's Main Man pulled away to a four-length lead early but gave way in the final furlong as Win Willy and Stachys swept past in deep stretch.
“I knew if I could slow things down, I’d have a good chance today,” said Borel, who heads to Dubai Feb. 14 to compete in an international jockey competiton. “The track wasn’t as deep today as it was last time (in the Fifth Season) and he got a lot out of that race. He’s also had a good work since then. He just ran his race today and things worked out. We were lucky.”
Kate's Main Man won for the first time in seven starts on the Oaklawn main track. The victory was the 11th in 41 races for the veteran bay, who boosted his lifetime earnings to $476,957.
Loretta Fern McClintock bred Kate's Main Man, who is out of Kate d'Kate (by D'Accord).
Kate's Main Man carried 118 pounds in the Essex and paid $7.60, $3.40, and $2.40. Win Willy, who was also second in last year's Essex as a heavy choice, carried top weight of 123 pounds and returned $2.40 and $2.10. The exacta was worth $18.60. Stachys paid $2.60 to show.
Sky's the Limit, Northern Giant, and Cryptolight completed the order of finish.