HOT SPRINGS, AR – Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s City of Light dueled the length of the stretch with fellow southern California invader Accelerate in an epic battle, holding off his heavily-favored foe to take Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap.
Breaking from far outside in post 11 under Drayden Van Dyke, City of Light stalked Untrapped‘s early pace four-wide through splits of :22.97, :46.63, and 1:11.53. Commencing his move at the same time as Accelerate while running along the outside, City of Light straightened out with a 1/2-length lead and appeared poised to take off down the stretch. Accelerate, however, had other plans, battling back along the rail and almost drawing even but running out of room. City of Light crossed a neck ahead in a final time of 1:48.26 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
“He broke sharp and put me in a good spot,” Van Dyke said. “Down the backside, he was completely loaded and had a lot of horse the entire way. Just had to wait for the home stretch to let him loose, and he did the rest himself. He’s a talented horse and (I’m) glad I could sit on him.”
Untrapped faded to third, an astounding 10 lengths behind the top pair, with Sonneteer necking out fourth over fellow late-closer Lookin At Lee. Sixth went to Malibu Max, with Hawaakom, Colonelsdarktemper, Blueridge Traveler, and Hedge Fund following in order. Last year’s winner Inside Straight was unable to defend his title after refusing to run once the gates sprung open. Though he never moved an inch, he was still declared a runner and placed 11th.
City of Light’s win was his third straight, all stakes scores, and his first career victory at a distance longer than 7 furlongs. The 4-year-old son of Quality Road improved his record to 7-4-3-0 with career earnings of $940,600. The Michael McCarthy trainee might be seen next in the Grade 1, $1,200,000 Metropolitan Handicap over a mile distance at Belmont Park.
“I didn’t think the distance would be a problem,” McCarthy said. “I should say this, I didn’t think a mile and 1/8 would be a problem, the added distance would be a problem. I was a little worried obviously drawing the 11-hole, with the speed inside of us. I was worried about getting caught wide in the first turn. He kind of stumbled stepping out of there and let the other horses get the jump on him. Drayden was able to dictate his trip. He was loaded at the 1/2-mile pole. At the time, I was nervous, because you worry if they are going to show up after the running starts, but when they got to the 1/4-pole and Drayden hadn’t moved his hands, I had the utmost confidence in my horse.”
City of Light returned $11.40 to win, $5.80 to place, and $4.20 to show. Accelerate brought back $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show, while Untrapped paid $3.80 to show.