CALL PAT, UPSTART TRIUMPH IN REBEL UNDERCARD STAKES
Hot Springs, Ark. (Saturday, March 19, 2016) – It was a different year, but the same result in the Grade 2 $350,000 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Saturday when champion and odds-on favorite Untapablewas narrowly defeated when making her seasonal debut after a protracted layoff. This time it was Call Pat who denied the Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred by employing her patented late closing kick to capture her second consecutive graded stakes race here.
Miller Racing's Call Pat, who is trained by Brad Cox and was ridden patiently by Joe Rocco, Jr., sat behind the moderate pace of 23, :47 4/5, 1:13 and 1:38 1/5. Untapable the unanimous 2014 choice as the 3-Year-Old Filly champion and 2-5 choice in the field of eight fillies and mares aged four and up, joined the leaders as they rounded the far turn. When they reached the top of the lane Untapable took command and advanced to a clear 1 1/2 length lead in the stretch.
But Call Pat, the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes winner last time out, was staging her typical furious rally and split horses to come up the rail and best Untapable by a neck as she crossed under the wire in 1:44.4 on a fast track. Streamline, the 9-1 choice, was another neck back.
“I was happy to the see the :47,” said Cox. “The last time, they went a little bit slower in the Bayakoa. But, we always knows she comes running. I was hoping she wouldn't run out of ground. We just got up, but she ran a great race. Joe Rocco does a great job on this mare. He knows her. He's ridden her at Indiana. He won on her here at Oaklawn, so he obviously knows the mare very well. He knew he couldn't sweep around all those good mares today. Come up the inside, split horses. He did a great job."
Said Rocco, “It was your typical Call Pat fashion. She falls back there and I just let her do her thing. We just kind of picked our way through there. She’s a nice mare. If you conserve her, she comes running."
Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Untapable, was understandably let down after her first effort since being idle since she was beaten by a neck in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland Oct. 4. Untapablenarrowly lost the 2015 Azeri after being sidelined following her score in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
“I was disappointed she ran second , but she ran solid. The rider said she lost a little focus and didn't see that filly on the outside (Streamline) and she was kind of looking up. I think she ran well. The winner (Call Pat) runs well here and we always know how that is when you come into Oaklawn. It is a horse for course place," he said.
Florent Geroux, who was riding Untapable for the first time said afterward that the now 5-year-old mare tried hard throughout the effort. "She ran great. I was just going a little too easy too soon. She never saw the one (Call Pat) coming,” he said.
Call Pat, a 6-year-old daughter of 2007 Oaklawn Handicap winner Lawyer Ron, has now won 7 of 29 starts and upped her bankroll to $614,589. Cox said she will be pointed next to the Grade 1 $600,000 Apple Blossom here April 15, where it is highly likely she'll again tangle with Untapable, last year's winner of the race.
“It's important to get that first race (off a layoff). She will definitely stay here and train and be pointed for the (G1) Apple Blossom next," said Asmussen, who saddled her to victory in the 2015 Apple Blossom.
In the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, which was also run on the Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel Stakes under card, Upstart made his eagerly-anticipated return to the races a successful one, coming from far off the pace to prevail by a length.
Sent off as the 5-2 favorite in the field of 10 older horses, Ralph M. Evans and WinStar Farms Upstart showed no ring rust from being idle since a fifth place finish in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby September 19, and he handled highweight of 120 pounds while conceding from three to eight pounds to his rivals.
The 4-year-old son of Flatter, who is trained by Rick Violette and traveled the Triple Crown trail last year, came five-wide into the stretch and dug in all the way to the wire to prevail in 1:44:12, a length in front of 9-1 Domain's Rap. Ido Porteno, the 2014 Argentine Horse of the Year who was making his initial North American start after not racing since mid-June, finished in third by another half-length.
“I couldn't be happier," said the New York-based Violette by phone. “He gave up ground on both turns but he was resolute up the lane. He ran right through. He's back to where we hoped he would be and I'm thrilled."
“I'm going to give full credit to the whole Rick Violette team for bringing this horse together. When you're off that long, it's tough to get a horse ready to run. He left there really nicely, relaxed really good the first turn. Probably a little farther back than Rick wanted. But, he was so comfortable and relaxed. I was really happy the way he was going. You saw the move he made around the turn. He's back. He's a pretty nice horse. He proved it to everybody. I'm just glad he's a big, happy horse for the rest of the season," said jockey Joe Bravo.
The Razorback served as the final prep for the Grade 2 $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap April 16 and Federico Villafranco, the trainer of Doman’s Rap who haltered him for $100,000 at Remington Park in November, indicated that may be his charge's next start.
“This horse has been running so good. We tried to get him an easier spot, but we couldn’t. We decided to give him a chance to prove himself. If he’s still doing good, we’ll have to think about the Oaklawn Handicap," he said.
Trainer Ignacio Correas was elated with the performance of the Argentine-bred Idolo Porteno, who was ridden by Florent Geroux. "My horse ran awesome, just awesome," he exclaimed "It was eight months with no racing, his first time in America and his first time around two turns. He was awesome. I don't know yet what we'll do next with him," he said.
Violette said that the Oaklawn Handicap is in his sights for Upstart's next start but is leaving that open until he gets the horse back to his base and evaluates how he comes out of the race.