SAN DIEGO HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | GRADE 2 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/16 MILES
DEL MAR, Calif. -- Tres Borrachos used to be a front-runner, or at least a horse that ran near the lead. He used to lose a lot of stakes, too.
This year, under the direction of trainer Marty Jones, Tres Borrachos has raced as a closer, and there have been improved results. After a third in his 2011 debut in an allowance race for sprinters at Hollywood Park in June, Tres Borrachos started as an outsider in Saturday's $200,000 San Diego Handicap, and won his first graded stakes since the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes in 2008.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode Tres Borrachos for the first time in the Grade 2 San Diego and was told by Jones to come from off the pace.
"He's always gone to the lead," Bejarano said. "I think this is the right thing to come from behind. Marty said to take a hold and put him where you are comfortable.
"When I got to the three-eighths, he gave me a big kick."
The San Diego Handicap was part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge program, offering a fees-paid berth to the winner for the BC Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in November.
Bejarano had Tres Borrachos in fifth in the field of eight near the turn, while racing on the inside, guided his mount three wide in early stretch and closed to win by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetter Kevlar Kid.
Kevlar Kid finished a head in front of a fast-closing Spurrier, who was followed by Oilisblackgold, Don Tito, Aggie Engineer, Golden Itiz, and Uh Oh Bango.
Tres Borrachos ($18.80) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.71.
Kevlar Kid was the 3-1 favorite and led by as many as four lengths on the backstretch through early fractions of 23.55 and 47.25 seconds. Trainer Carla Gaines questioned after the race whether Kevlar Kid's front-running style is suited on Del Mar's Polytrack surface. "It's a tough task to do here," she said. "He ran his race."
The victory ended a 13-race losing streak for Tres Borrachos, dating back to May 2009. Tres Borrachos was recently acquired by owner George Hicker, having previously been owned by a partnership. Beau Greely trained Tres Borrachos until earlier this year. Greely said earlier this summer that he was taking a break from training after undergoing hip replacement surgery.
A 6-year-old gelding by Ecton Park, Tres Borrachos has won 4 of 31 starts and $760,257. Earlier in his career, he was second to Rail Trip in the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup and was third in the 2008 Arkansas Derby.