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HEAVILY FAVORED CONNEMARA WORKS HARD, REMAINS UNBEATEN IN THE CHIEF'S CROWN PURSE
ARCADIA, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2009) – Bet down to 7-10 favoritism after dramatically overcoming considerable trouble to win his 2-year-old debut by five lengths last month at Turfway Park, Connemara rallied to win Oak Tree’s $40,400 Chief’s Crown Purse on Wednesday, but his apparent inexperience made it no easy task for the son of stellar sire Giant’s Causeway.
Garrett Gomez was hard-pressed to get the promising youngster home on time in the 1 1/16-mile event for 2-year-olds. He raced greenly along the rail while running fifth through the early going in the field of six. Gomez angled him out in midstretch, and Connemara surged in the final strides to prevail by one-half length over Mr. Saturdaynight. The final time was 1:44.75 over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface.
Ranger Heartley, the second choice at 9-2 under Rajiv Maragh, was able to set the pace into the stretch through moderate fractions that included a half in 49.00. He was overtaken by Mr. Saturdaynight, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, in midstretch while Gomez worked furiously to finally get Connemara straightened away. Mr. Saturdaynight held second by 1 ¼ lengths over the tiring Ranger Heartley.
The winner returned a hard-earned $3.40, $3 and $2.10. The payoffs on Mr. Saturdaynight were $5 and $3.20. Ranger Heartley paid $2.80 to show.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith – connections that have won their fair share of major stakes races in the U.S. and Great Britain – Connemara clearly is a colt with considerable talent. He won Wednesday mostly on his innate class. In last month’s debut at Turfway Park, he broke very slowly in a field of 12, raced extremely wide and somehow managed to win the maiden event by daylight at odds of 7-2.
The winning purse of the Chief’s Crown amounted to $24,000 and boosted Connemara’s earnings from two races to $37,800. On the eve of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita on Thursday, Oak Tree offers an eight-race card headed by the $43,000 Caterman Purse at 6 ½ furlongs over the track’s unique downhill turf course. First post is at 1 p.m.