ARCADIA, CA – An exciting stretch run plus several minutes spent reviewing the photo finish culminated with Ohio and jockey Ruben Fuentes earning their first career graded stakes scores in Saturday’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 2 at 9/1 odds, Ohio initially held the lead heading into the clubhouse turn before Hunt took over midway through and held that position down the backstretch while posting fractions of :23.98 and :47.39. Heading into the far turn, Ohio made a bid for the lead along the pacesetter’s outside and took control midway through.
At the top of the stretch, Ohio still held a slim lead while the 4/5 favorite Catapult was stuck in behind him. Once clear, Catapult launched a furious rally to the wire, collaring Ohio in deep stretch as the two horses bobbed heads apart. Despite track announcer Frank Mirahmadi calling Catapult the victor, a several minutes-long review of the finish found that the Michael McCarthy-trained Ohio had won the bob in a final time of 1:33.71 for the mile-long event over the firm turf course.
“The instructions were to grab the lead if nobody wanted it, so I jumped out of there, and as soon as Hunt went by me, I knew we had something to run at and someone to follow,” Fuentes said. “We were going pretty smooth there. Coming into the turn, he wanted to go on his own, and Mike said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t take anything from him. Whatever he wants to do, go along with it,’ and that’s just what I did. Turning for home, I moved my hands down on him and he gave me a quick turn. After that, I knew I had it, and he was gone. Then, I saw a horse on the outside, and he saw him, too. As soon as he saw him, he fought back and he just got his head right at the wire.”
Catapult was taking a relative class drop after finishing a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), but his traffic troubles at the top of the stretch may have been just enough to cost him the win under Drayden Van Dyke.
“I thought I was in front at the wire,” Van Dyke said. “That is the worst head bob I’ve been involved in. I knew it was close by hearing all the crowd noise. I was hoping it wasn’t that close. After we finished, Ruben turned to me and congratulated me on the win. He thought he lost.”
Behind the exciting ending up front, a slow-breaking Desert Stone was able to similarly out-bob River Boyne for third. A weakening Hunt outfinished only Next Shares, who never factored into the real running before completing the order of finish.
Ohio’s win was his second in his past three starts, including the Fitzsimmons Handicap at Turf Paradise on January 12, with his lone loss a 1/2-length miss last out in the Thunder Road Stakes (G3) here on February 9. The 8-year-old gelded son of Elusive Quality, who McCarthy claimed for $50,000 last June 18, improved his record to 26-9-4-2 with $488,065 earned for current owners Eclipse Throughbred Partners and Bruce Treitman.
“I just thought he was a horse with a lot of back class when we took him to Arizona and he won a nice little race, $75,000 stake, and it sort of changed him,” McCarthy said. “He is a very easy horse to train; he’s easy on himself. … I can’t thank Ruben enough for a wonderful ride. He’s very patient. Obviously, today was his first mount in a G1 and first win in a G1, and for the owners – Bruce Treitman, the Wellmans, Eclipse Thoroughbred – I can’t thank them enough for their support. It was their idea to go ahead and claim this horse; I’m just along for the ride here.”
Ohio returned $21.20 to win, $5.80 to place, and $3.80 to show. Catapult brought back $2.80 to place and $2.20 to show, while Desert Stone paid $6 to show.