Virginia H. Tarra Trust's Oak Brook opened an easy early lead and showed steely resolve in the stretch en route to an upset tally in the $52,580 Black Tie Affair Handicap.
Ridden by Santo Sanjur for trainer Brian Williamson, the 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway established an open-lengths lead through early splits of 25.44 and 51.47 over yielding ground, turned back a challenge at the top of the stretch after six furlongs in 1:16.74, and dug in gamely in the final yards to score by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:47.87 for the 1 1/16-miles trip. Team Block's Chris Block-trained defending champion Cammack made a resolute run up the rail in the stretch under C. H. Marquez, Jr. but was unable to collar the leader in the final yards while finishing three-quarters of a length to the good of Cherrywood Racing Stables' Super Soldier, who loomed at the top of the stretch but flattened late under Julio Felix for trainer Michele Boyce.
“I followed instructions,” Sanjur said. “My horse kicked away in the stretch. I was worried about The Pizza Man like everyone in the field, but my horse did very [well].”
Midwest Thoroughbreds' Roger Brueggemann-trained 2015 Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man was sent to post as the 4-5 favorite under Arlington's leading rider Jose Valdivia, Jr., trailed the field early and finished with gusto in the stretch but had to settle for fourth, a half-length astern Super Soldier.
“He's got a lot of heart,” Valdivia said. “Pick your poison: 128 [pounds], heavy ground at too short of a distance, I mean I could tell when we were down the backside at the half mile pole, I'm thinking they're gonna start picking it up. We were going a decent pace, but I could tell that I'm asking him and he's really struggling. This was like European soft. Hats off to him because at the wire he was earnest. If this race would have been a mile and a quarter, even with everything, he gets there.”
Oak Brook won for the fourth time in his 19th career start and earned $31,710 to boost his career bankroll to $215,729. He returned $34.20, $8 and $5.20, with Cammack paying $3 and $2.60 and Super Soldier returning $2.80.
Always a Catch completed the order of finish. Empirestrikesagain scratched.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.