The third time worked for Raging Bull in the Maker's Mark Mile (G1). After running fourth in 2019 and third last year, the Peter Brant color-bearer broke through on Friday with a two-length win in the $300,000 turf event at Keeneland Race Course.
With Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, Raging Bull bided his time in mid-pack before launching his bid on the second turn and kicking clear at the top of the stretch to win in a final time of 1:33.86 on a "good" turf course. The French-bred son of Dark Angel provided trainer Chad Brown with his first win in the Maker's Mark.
Ride a Comet closed from last under Tyler Gaffalione to get second and was followed across the wire by Sacred Life, also for Brown, and Field Pass. Favored Hit the Road, who shipped in from Southern California, checked in fifth.
Raging Bull, who now has three Grade 1 wins, paid $9.00 as the 7-2 second choice. This was his first start since a disappointing 10th-place finish in last November's Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland.
“Both horses ran great, especially given the layoffs they were facing," Brown said. "Raging Bull got a great trip and setup. He’s much more effective with a solid pace in front of him. Irad deserves a lot of credit for getting him into the race early and securing a great spot into the first turn.”
Ortiz described his winning trip.
“He broke sharp today. I had an advantage there," Ortiz said. "The first turn, I let him run, then I slowed him down. He relaxed so well. He was like 3 or 4 lengths behind the leaders. I said I’m just gonna wait until it’s time to go. By the three-eighths pole, I saw some separation so I went for it a little early. He responded well, so I just went for it. He still had something at the end.”
Splits for the race were 22.47, 45.65 and 1:10.24 for six furlongs.
Hit the Road was riding a four-race winning streak for trainer Dan Blacker, capped off by Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita on March 6. This was the first start outside of Southern California for the 4-year-old More Than Ready colt.
“Obviously disappointed, but really thankful to the owners to take a (chance) to come all the way from California," Blacker said. "I don’t regret taking a (chance). We had a lot of time between races and we felt like this was the right time for a race like this.
“On paper, the race looked like there would be plenty of speed and Florent Geroux did a good job getting him into a good spot early. He was a little farther back than he typically is, but with the (fast) pace I don’t think it was the wrong move," Blacker added. "He followed the winner the whole way. He just did not have that late kick turning for home like he did in California.”
Raging Bull was making his first start since a disappointing 10th-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland. The 6-year-old ups his record to 18: 7-3-3 with earnings approaching $1.5 million. His previous Grade 1 wins came in the 2018 Hollywood Derby and 2020 Shoemaker Mile, both at Santa Anita