PAT O'BRIEN HANDICAP | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD & Up | GRADE 2 | 7 FURLONGS
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won his fourth straight running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Sunday, but not with 3-2 favorite Coil. Instead, it was the other Baffert runner, Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable's Capital Account, who collared his stablemate by a half-length to earn his first stakes victory.
"One-two (finish), we'll take it either way," said Baffert, who has now trained a total of six Pat O'Brien winners. Love That Red (2000) and El Corredor (2001) were his first two, and his current sequence includes Zensational (2009), El Brujo (2010) and The Factor (2011).
Sent off as the 5-2 third choice, Capital Account brought strong form into the Pat O'Brien. The lightly-raced five-year-old was most recently third in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby in his stakes debut July 29, beaten a grand total of 1 1/4 lengths by champion sprinter Amazombie, and just a head shy of his vaunted stablemate The Factor. His closing style suggested that he'd profit by stepping up to seven furlongs, and so it proved here.
In the absence of a confirmed front runner, Don Tito and Coil both went forward. Don Tito held a narrow advantage through fractions of :23 3/5 and :46 4/5, tepid enough for the trip in this kind of company. Camp Victory, the 8-5 second choice, pressed the issue wider out in third. Meanwhile, regular rider David Flores dropped Capital Account back into a comfortable fifth of six, but well within striking range in the compact group.
Coil put his head in front rounding the far turn, with Camp Victory glued to his flank. Although Coil was determinedly rebuffing the challenge of Camp Victory down the stretch, reaching six furlongs in 1:10, Capital Account was producing a stronger burst of speed down the center of the track. He quickened past the favorite, who tried to come back along the inside.
But Capital Account was a bit sharper at this distance than Coil, last year's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner, and he preserved the victory. After stopping the teletimer in a lively 1:21 2/5 on the Polytrack, Capital Account paid $7.60, $3.40 and $2.60.
"He broke just a shade slow, but there was no rush," Flores said. "I had a feeling there wasn't going to be a lot of pace and I just wanted to stay close. You can put him where you want him and he's easy to work with. When it came time I asked him and he gave me a big response. A very good race for him."
"The five (Camp Victory) was the horse to beat; he's a really good horse," Baffert said. "But there wasn't a lot of pace, they were sort of walking around there and then turned it into a sprint for home. Advantage to Capital Account -- he's a really fast horse and he's run some really big races.
"Capital Account, we knew that seven-eighths would be better for him. He's all racehorse.
"Coil really ran well, but Rafael (Bejarano) had to use him a little when it looked like (Camp Victory) was making a move," Baffert noted.
Coil had one length to spare over third-placer Camp Victory. Bruce's Dream, Mobilized and Don Tito completed the order of finish.
"There was no pace in the race," Camp Victory's trainer Mike Mitchell said. "That means it didn't set up for him. I needed more speed in front of me. I knew that the Baffert horses were the ones to beat, but with that pace we couldn't do it."
Capital Account's resume now reads 9-5-2-2, $347,080, compiled exclusively in sprints. Unraced as a juvenile, the son of Closing Argument won both of his starts at three in the summer of 2010. Capital Account finished third in his allowance comeback in March 2011, but was shelved again until New Year's Eve, when he was a good second to Frumious at Santa Anita. Capital Account scored in two of his next three allowance tilts -- a 3 1/2-length decision at Santa Anita January 28 and a 3 3/4-length victory at Hollywood Park June 22 -- before tackling the Bing Crosby.
Bred by Silverleaf Farms Inc. in Kentucky, Capital Account was purchased for $330,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The bay is a three-quarter brother to Grade 3 winner Accountforthegold, who is by Closing Argument's sire Successful Appeal.
Capital Account and Accountforthegold were both produced by the Private Account mare Accountess. Another of her offspring, Premier Account, is the dam of steeplechase stakes winner Sergeant Karakorum. Further back, this is the family of Grade 1 hero Irish Actor.