Allowed to float on the lead through moderate fractions, Ultimate Eagle
all challengers through the stretch and lit up the tote board as a 34-to-1 long
shot in the $150,000 Oak Tree Derby (Grade II) over a mile and an eighth on
Santa Anita's turf course.
"There was a ton of speed in the race, but
(jockey) Martin (Pedroza) knew this was a free-running colt so he put him on the
lead and let him take care of the rest," said trainer Michael Pender. "Going
down the back stretch when Midnight Interlude
(eventual fourth place finisher as
the 9-to-5 favorite) was right at our throat latch, I saw him get asked a little
bit and I said, 'This thing is over.'"
"Anybody who'd listen I told them
this horse was going to run his eye balls out and this would be the best race of
his career. He wasn't going to leave anything on the table and that's exactly
what he did."
The son of Mizzen Mast has now won three straight races
since moving to the turf, parlaying maiden and allowance scores into a
successful stakes debut against a solid group of 13 runners.
"He's back from the dead. He came within a hair
of dying. He's very happy to be alive as he's shown today," said owner B J
Wright, referring to his three-year-old colt's bout with colic.
Wright teamed up to win last week's Oak Tree Mile (Grade II) on the turf with
, who also won the Strub Stakes (Grade II) last year on dirt. Despite
having never run on dirt, the plan is for Ultimate Eagle to attempt to follow in
his barn mate's footsteps.
"Initially, we had our sights set on the
Strub. We wanted to win it with Jeranimo and this horse so everything is on
track for that to happen," said Pender.
The Strub is the third race in a
series that also includes the Malibu (Grade I), on the day after Christmas, and
San Fernando (Grade II), in January. Hopes are for Ultimate Eagle to compete in
all three events.
After trailing in second to last going into the turn
for home in his stateside debut, 4-to-1 second choice Venomous
second, just half a length behind Ultimate Eagle, and 17-to-1 shot Cozy Kitten
also made up late ground to round out a trifecta that paid over $5,700 for a
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