Two horses that had never been around two turns finished 1-2 in Monday's Grade 3, $500,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., with front-running Coal Front, under John Velazquez, just holding off a fast-closing Copper Bullet at the wire of the 1 1/16-mile contest. Rated R Superstar finished third, with an unlucky Sonneteer fourth in the field of 14 older runners.
Coal Front, a 5-year-old ridgling by Stay Thirsty out of Miner's Secret, by Mineshaft is owned by Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners. Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly and trained by Todd Pletcher, Coal Front covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.45. He carried 120 pounds under the handicap conditions, three more than the runner-up.Coal Front paid $4.60 as the 7-5 favorite.
Winner of the G2 Amsterdam at Saratoga and G3 Gallant Bob at Parx as a 3-year-old, Coal Front raced just twice in 2018, winning the G3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park in late December in his most recent start. His three stakes wins came at 6, 6 1/2 and 7 furlongs, but Pletcher told TVG after the Razorback that Coal Front has been “training like a horse that wanted to stretch out.”
The Razorback was his sixth win in eight starts.
Coal Front had to overcome the far outside 14 post and Velazquez gunned him toward the front when the gates opened. Simon Callaghan-trained All Out Blitz, breaking from the 10 post under Tyler Baze, also wanted the lead and held a slight advantage rounding the first turn and through the opening quarter mile in a quick :22.78. All Out Blitz held a narrow advantage over Coal Front down the backstretch and into the far turn through fractions of :46.59 and 1:11.84, with Copper Bullet and Jose Ortiz hugging the rail just behind those two in third.
Into the stretch, Coal Front seized the advantage from All Out Blitz while Copper Bullet swung to the outside. Sonneteer, racing behind a wall of horses after saving ground into the stretch under Richard Eramia, tried to get through a narrow opening in mid-stretch, but got shut off and was forced to re-rally to the outside.
Copper Bullet was gaining on Coal Front in deep stretch, but the Pletcher trainee had just enough to prevent Steve Asmussen from winning his fifth victory of the day.
“We were a little concerned when we saw the post, but the real key to his success today was getting away cleanly and getting a good position going into the first turn,” said Pletcher. “Had to go a little quick to get to the first turn, but turning up the backside he relaxed nicely.”
The win was Pletcher's fourth in the Razorback, an important prep for the G2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 13. His previous wins came with Race Day in 2015, Golden Lad in 2014 and Magna Graduate in 2007.
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