METROPOLITAN HANDICAP | PURSE: $750,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 MILE
Sahara Sky, invading from Southern California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, needed every inch of the long Belmont Park stretch run to catch pacesetting Cross Traffic in a heart-pounding finish to the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap May 27.
A tough-luck second in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack April 6, 9-2 shot Sahara Sky's return trip to New York paid big dividends for his Hall of Fame trainer, who owns the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap with Kim Lloyd.
Joel Rosario brought Sahara Sky wide off the turn, avoiding traffic issues that affected 5-2 favorite Flat Out. Sahara Sky methodically advanced through the lane after Cross Traffic had put away Mark Valeski near the eighth pole. Under right-handed urging from Rosario, Sahara Sky hit the Met Mile wire a short nose in front while timed in 1:34.17 over a fast track.
Cross Traffic, headed by Flat Out in the Westchester Stakes April 27 at Belmont, had to settle for second once more after flashing blazing quarter mile fractions of :22.40, :44.68, and 1:09.20. Flat Out, two-time winner of the Jockey Gold Cup for trainer Bill Mott, was third, suffering his first loss in five tries at Belmont.
Sahara Sky, bred in Florida by Martin Stables, is out of the Storm Cat mare Seeking the Sky, a Grade 3 winner whose five foals to race have all been winners. He began his career for A.C. and Jane Hebert and trainer Jeff Hebert in Louisiana, but caught Hollendorfer's eye after winning his debut by 4 1/4 lengths at Delta Downs.
Purchased privately, Sahara Sky has raced exclusively for Hollendorfer since. Lloyd, his partner, is a former Southern California trainer who is general manager of the Barretts Equine Ltd., the auction firm based at Fairplex Park.
Sahara Sky won his graded stakes debut Jan. 19 at Santa Anita Park in the Palos Verdes Stakes. In his next start, the seven-furlong San Carlos, he won again, setting the stage for the Carter. In that race, The dark bay horse was forced to alter course at the three-sixteenth pole but finished well to be three-quarters of a length behind upset winner Swagger Jack.