Exit Stage Left won a duel for the lead over Harbaugh and a duel down the stretch over Enterprising and Infosec to claim victory in the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday.
Exit Stage Left, ridden by Russell Baze and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, remained undefeated when he gamely fought off 9-5 favorite Enterprising to win the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds by a half-length in a good time of 1:44.07. Infosec finished third.
Harbaugh, a horse named in honor of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, was bet down from his 10-1 morning line odds to 6-1. Unfortunately for his backers, Harbaugh tired in the stretch and checked in seventh in the field of eight.
Exit Stage Left was the 5-2 second choice in the betting and paid $7.20 after collecting his third stakes victory in as many starts. It was a very impressive win for Exit Stage Left, who set the pace inside of Harbaugh while posting solid fractions on the synthetic Tapeta racing surface – 23.86 for the opening quarter of a mile and 48.20 for the half-mile.
“I thought (Harbaugh) would clear me leaving the gate and I'd sit just off of him, but he didn't break all that sharp and run away from the gate the way I thought he would,” said Baze. “My horse rose to the challenge when he came up next to me. Down the backside I gave him his head a little bit. Once he got a little in front, he relaxed real well for me.”
Exit Stage Left shook off Harbaugh entering the lane but soon had to deal with the hard-charging duo of Enterprising and Infosec. Exit Stage Left was up to the challenge and held his two rivals at bay.
“He doesn't like to let horses by him,” said Baze. “He ran hard all the way to the wire. He kicked real good when I asked him, and when (Enterprising) came into sight, he laid his body down even harder. He's tough and he's talented. You have to like that combination. And, you know, he's still a work in progress.”
Exit Stage Left, a New Jersey-bred colt by the sire Noonmark, is owned in partnership by Hollendorfer and Mark DeDomenico. Winner of the Golden Nugget and Gold Rush Stakes as a 2-year-old, Exit Stage Left earned $60,000 for his victorious 3-year-old debut and has banked $135,350 in his three races.
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