By Dick Downey
Updated Feb. 19 @ 11:06 a.m. ET
Daddy Nose Best outdueled Lucky Chappy to the wire to win the 1 1/18 mile, Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
Onlookers speculated that the result might be a dead heat, but Daddy Nose Best won by the barest nostril. Handsome Mike finished third, followed by longshot Unveiled Heat. The three lowest odds horses in the field finished one-two-three. Daddy Nose Best was sent off at 4.10-1, Lucky Chappy was 2.70-1, and Handsome Mike was 2.40-1.
The race unfolded with Handsome Mike and All Squared Away, the longest shot in the field at 94-1, leading through fractions of :23.31, :47.57 and 1:12.28. All Squared Away was in front and Handsome Mike was in closest pursuit down the backstretch and into the turn. Lady of Fifty and Cahill Chrome weren't far behind. Meanwhile, Daddy Nose Best was tracking in fifth, and Lucky Chappy trailed the field in tenth until he started picking off horses heading to the far turn.
In the turn, Lady of Fifty, only the third filly to ever contest the race, mounted a rally that fizzled when they turned for home. Local hero Russian Greek, ninth, then tenth in the early going, made his move as well, but came up far short.
Lucky Chappy went from eighth heading into the turn to a short lead with only a furlong remaining in the race. Daddy Nose Best was blocked briefly at the quarter-pole but got to the fore of the field in the stretch and outgamed Lucky Chappy to the wire.
The winning time was 1:50.46. After the top four finishers, the remaining order of finish was Russian Greek, Lady of Fifty, All Squared Away, Rockinarz Recruit, Senor Rain and Cahill Chrome.
Julien Leparoux traveled from his South Florida base to ride the Steve Asmussen-trained winner for the seventh consecutive time.
With the win, Daddy Nose Best picked up $120,000 to push his total graded earnings to $145,558. Lucky Chappy earned $40,000 to make a total of $115,000. Handsome Mike made $24,000.
Daddy Nose Best paid $10.20, $5.40 and $3.60. Lucky Chappy returned $4.60 and $2.80. Handsome Mike paid $2.80.
Going into the El Camino Real Derby, the plan was to use the race for Lucky Chappy as a setup for the Group 2 U.A.E. Derby on March 31. He would accompany Team Valor International's Animal Kingdom to Dubai for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. Animal Kingdom won his 2012 debut today, the first time a Kentucky Derby winner has won a subsequent race since Big Brown in 2008. Graham Motion trains both horses.
The winner was shipped to Golden Gate from Santa Anita for his first try on synthetic track, in this case Tapeta. It was the ninth career start for Daddy Nose Best. After two failed efforts on dirt -- one of them a second to Exfactor at Churchill Downs. He had raced on turf six straight times thereafter. Last year he finished third in the Grade III Summer Stakes won by Finale, and he was sixth in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, beaten only 3 3/4 lengths by Wrote. Most recently, he finished fifth in the Eddie Logan Stakes on New Year's Eve.
By Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), Daddy Nose Best is out of Follow Your Bliss, by Thunder Gulch. He was bred in Kentucky by the Patricia Ann Elia Trust. After he was RNA'd at $34,000 in the Keeneland November 2009 sale, he sold for $35,000 at Keeneland September 2010 to current owners Cathy and Bob Zollars.
Julien Leparoux, aboard Daddy Nose Best: “I didn’t know if I won or not. It was too close to call. It was nice to see the horse fight back.”
Darren Fleming, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen: “We came here because of the added distance and his experience on turf which carries over to synthetic. Winning last year with Silver Medallion helped our decision. He’s been getting better with time, and he’s trained with a different mindset since his last race. He’s been showing us he wanted more ground, so we’ve had to wait for the races to catch up to him.”
Co-owner Bob Zollars: “He was named after that old TV show Father Knows Best, and his sire is Scat Daddy."
Alan Garcia, aboard Lucky Chappy: “When you come this far to win a race and you get beat like that…heartbreaking. He broke a little slow out of there, and it took him a little while to get going. He finished well. I’m looking forward to the next one. It’s going to be good.”