The Grade 2, $350,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap, Presented by Xpressbet looked to be a matchup of three horses exiting Breeders' Cup starts, and in the end one of those emerged on top while a pair of locals ran big races.
Breaking from the gate in the 1 1/4 mile Gold Cup, Alpha got away in good order under jockey Eddie Castro, trying to slow things down. He was able to do so early, covering the opening quarter in :25 and the half in :51. Tracked by Suns Out Guns Out and Fordubai, Alpha, took the field into the turn a length on top while 4-5 favorite Last Gunfighter and jockey Joe Bravo were running in the clear while three wide. At the top of the stretch, Alpha was part of four horses across the track as he was joined by longshot Street Spice, Last Gunfighter, and Mister Marti Gras. Down the lane, Last Gunfighter gained the advantage while local favorites Mister Marti Gras and Street Spice ran on. At the wire, Last Gunfighter held on for a length victory over Mister Marti Gras, who was two lengths ahead of Street Spice, stopping the clock in 2:06.11 for the mile and a quarter.
Owned by John Gunther and trained by Chad Brown, Last Gunfighter earned $210,000 to push his career earnings to $1,025,405. Last Gunfighter paid $3.80, $2.40 and $2.60. Mister Marti Gras earned $70,000 and also became a millionaire as he returned $7.80 and $5.40 while Street Spice paid $8.80 to show.
Jockey Joe Bravo was more than pleased to be back aboard Last Gunfighter, “All I can really say is, “Thanks Chad.” We left the gate quickly because he broke so good. I just had a ton of horse and I let him run closer to the pace than I wanted to but the pace was so slow. I just wanted to keep him relaxed. He's a big monster and when he gets in his stride, he just takes over. Chad brought the best horse today. He made my job really easy. This horse just keeps getting better and better. To get beat by less than five in the Breeders' Cup is just great. I want everybody to go watch the gallop out. It might have been the most impressive thing today. It took everything I had to pull him up even after he ran a mile and a quarter. He wanted to keep going. It was pretty eye-opening. Definitely worth the flight.”
Trainer Chris Block got a big effort from Mister Marti Gras, “He was training real well coming into the race and I knew he'd run good as long as he had a clean trip. I knew we'd lose ground on the turn but the rail has been dead so I didn't want him to get stuck down there. He ran a great race and that is a hell of a horse he was trying to run down. He's a millionaire now.”
Alex Canchari was aboard Street Spice, “He broke well. I tried to get him to relax. He relaxed a bit around the first turn. He dragged me up to the leaders on the backstretch on his own. He ran good.”
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