STICKNEY/CICERO - - It may have taken a slow 2:06.11 to negotiate the ten furlongs of the Grade Two, $350,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on a mild late-November evening, but it was a logical result nonetheless in the 77th renewal of the showcase race of the Hawthorne Fall meet.
The early pace would be set by ALPHA, who cleared off to a short lead with SUNS OUT GUNS OUT closely in tow with a lap to go, first quarter time posted in :25.09. For most of the early stages, ALPHA and SUNS OUT GUNS OUT would be one-two with the 3-1 second choice on the lead. Both of them set off to mid-race fractions of :51.14 for the half and 1:15.61 for the three-quarters. STREET SPICE would range up three wide, almost unpredictably, trying for a spot among the early pace. LAST GUNFIGHTER and MISTER MARTI GRAS were trailing early, but both were starting their rallies on the backstretch and second turn.
Turning for home, STREET SPICE did get in front for a brief moment but would be overtaken in the final stages of the race by deep closers MISTER MARTI GRAS and LAST GUNFIGHTER, the latter of the two closing better and with all three getting the better of ALPHA by the stretch call. At the wire, LAST GUNFIGHTER would emerge a winner by a length. Two locals, MISTER MARTI GRAS and STREET SPICE, rounded out the top three, the Block-trained MISTER MARTI GRAS closing to be second by two lengths over STREET SPICE. ALPHA completed the superfecta, reporting home two and a half lengths behind the top three.
LAST GUNFIGHTER, a four-year-old by First SAMURAI, stopped the clock for the mile and a quarter in the aforementioned dawdling time of 2:06.11. Joe Bravo was aboard for trainer Chad Brown as he won his fourth graded stakes year and became a millionaire with winning the Hawthorne feature. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite, he returned $3.80 to win.
Winning rider Joe Bravo described his ride as follows, "We left the gate quickly because he broke so good. I just had a ton of horse and I let him run closer to the pace than I wanted but the pace was so slow. I just wanted to keep him relaxed. He's a big monster and when he gets in his stride, he just takes over. Definitely worth the flight."
Bravo also clued punters into the future of LAST GUNFIGHTER: "This horse just keeps getting better and better. I want everyone to watch the gallop out. It might have been the most impressive thing today. It took everything I had to pull him up even after he ran a mile and a quarter."
Immediate plans for a next race or a 2014 campaign were not disclosed by the connections.
The $2 3-1 exacta of LAST GUNFIGHTER and MISTER MARTI GRAS yielded $32.40. The fifty-cent 3-1-9 trifecta of LAST GUNFIGHTER, MISTER MARTI GRAS, and STREET SPICE returned $93.20. Dime superfectas with ALPHA in the fourth position paid $82.48.
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