Three Diamonds Farm's Bonus Points, trailing by 20 lengths after a half-mile, unleashed a powerful last-to-first move on the far outside through the stretch to catch long shot pacesetter Saratoga Jack and win Sunday's featured seventh race at Laurel Park.
Ridden by Feargal Lynch for New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher, Bonus Points ($4.40) covered about 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.17 over a fast main track in the $47,000 third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up.
It was the first race for Bonus Points, winner of last year's Maryland Millions Classic, since finishing second by a nose to Papa Zulu in a similar spot going one mile Sept. 16 at Laurel. The Maryland-bred son of Majestic Warrior now owns three wins and three seconds in six career trips at Laurel.
“The last time when I went head-to-head with Papa Zulu, when I came back in I said I wanted to take this horse further back during his races like he did during the Maryland Million Classic. He likes attacking horses and coming with one big run,” Lynch said. “The last two times I sat a little bit close and maybe got there a little too soon and he just idled, especially the last time. I was upset with the ride I gave him.”
The speedy Saratoga Jack was hustled from the gate and led his six rivals through an opening quarter-mile in 23.56 seconds and a half in 46.68, opening up a five-length advantage over Adulator in the strung-out field. Lynch settled Bonus Points at the rear of the pack before tipping outside to begin their run leaving the backstretch.
Bonus Points made a bold sweeping move around the turn and was in full stride once straightened for home, put to a steady drive through the lane as Saratoga Jack hung tough after a strong six furlongs in 1:10.80 and a mile in 1:35.94. Bonus Points was able to surge past the leader in deep stretch and win by a length.
Saratoga Jack held second by three-quarters of a length over Imperative, followed by Adulator, Douglas Road, Belfour and Analyze. Bonus Points, Adulator, Douglas Road and Belfour all scratched out of Saturday's $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes for this spot.
“This horse is a star and I figured out how to ride him from my point of view,” Lynch said. “I'm just delighted to get the opportunity. [Pletcher] has been very good to me this year and last year. We've had a good association, and he's put me on some very nice horses.”
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