Salvator Mile H. (gr. III)

(gr. III , 8f ,)

GOTTCHA GOLD (B h, 117 lb) $90,000
Coronado's Quest —Gottcha Last , by Pleasant Tap
B—Centaur Farms, Inc., FL.; O—Centaur Farms, Inc. (Heath); T—Edward Plesa, Jr.

Lawyer Ron (CH h, 121 lb) $30,000
Langfuhr —Donation , by Lord Avie
B—James T. Hines Jr., KY.; O—Hines Racing LLC; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Indy Wind (CH h, 119 lb) $16,500
A.P. Indy —Zagora , by Kingmambo
B—Gaillardia LLC, KY.; O—Hardacre Farm LLC; T—Amy Tarrant

Margins: neck, 8½, 2. Others: Chucker 117($9,000) , Take the Bluff 117($4,500) . Winning Jockey, Charles C. Lopez.

Vernon Heath wasn’t looking to win the June 23 Salvator Mile Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park with homebred Gottcha Gold. Not with grade II winner and millionaire Lawyer Ron in the race.

“We were just hoping to run second or third to get some graded black-type,” Heath said.

But then something big happened. Ridden by Charles Lopez, Gottcha Gold took charge at the start of the mile race and never looked back as he held on to win by a neck over Lawyer Ron. The time, 1:34.25, was a stakes record and about two-fifths of a second slower than the track mark set by Forty Niner in 1988.

“Last time, he got away from Chuckie a little bit early, but today he was able to settle down a little bit more,” said trainer Edward Plesa Jr. about Gottcha Gold’s runner-up effort in the May 28 Frisk Me Now Stakes at Monmouth. “I wasn’t worried about Lawyer Ron catching him. I could see how well he was running in the stretch. But I was happy to see the wire come up when it did.”

Lawyer Ron was the big favorite all the way around. He attracted $464,509 in the show pool from the total of $484,077. The first three finishers (Indy Wind ran third) each paid a minimum $2.10.

“It was really something to beat Lawyer Ron,” said Heath, a resident of Bloomington, Minn., who watched the race at nearby Canterbury Downs. “Ed and Chuck are the real heroes.”

Gottcha Gold was foaled at Diane Dudley’s Dudley Farm near Ocala, Fla. He received his early training at Michael O’Farrell’s Ocala Stud Farms before being sent to Plesa in Florida for his 2-year-old campaign.

Monmouth will host this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, and Gottcha Gold figures to receive plenty of local support if he goes in the Oct. 26 Dirt Mile. He has raced eight times at Monmouth and has finished first or second in five stakes. One of them, the 2006 Coronado’s Quest Stakes, was named for his sire, who captured the 1998 Buick Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth.

Heath, who raced his first stakes winner, Prospector’s Halo, in 1988, has campaigned homebred graded stakes winners Adhocracy, Atticus Kristy, Classic Par, Exogenous, and Tahkodha Hills. Exogenous, by Unbridled, was one of the top 3-year-old fillies of 2001 after winning the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) and Gazelle Handicap (gr. I).

Gottcha Gold is the first foal from the stakes-winning Pleasant Tap mare Gottcha Last, who was bred and raced by Jane du Pont Lunger’s Christiana Stables. Boarded at Dudley Farm, Gottcha Last produced a 2007 filly by Trippi. She didn’t conceive for 2008. Heath owns a 25% interest in Trippi.

Deceased Coronado’s Quest is represented by a dozen stakes winners, including additional 2007 added-money winners Awesome Gambler and Crucifijo (Mex-I). Coronado’s Quest stood in Japan at the JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station prior to his death in March of 2006.—D.S.