By Mary LaRue
Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners' Coal Front held off Copper Bullet to win the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3)by a neck on Presidents Day at Oaklawn Park.
The 1 1/16-mile race for horses 4 and up drew a full field of 14, and Coal Front had the outside post with John Velazquez aboard. Bolting out of the gate and darting to the lead, Coal Front and Copper Bullet, from the rail, along with All Out Blitz from post 10 vied for the early lead.
Retreating to second, Coal Front conceded the lead to All Out Blitz while Copper Bullet settled in third. The three held the order through fractions of :22.78 and :46.59 for a half-mile, although Copper Bullet fell back about four lengths and then into fourth after six furlongs went in 1:11.84.
As All Out Blitz was determined to keep his place on the lead, several horses made their move around the turn and Coal Front moved up to press the leader. Eventually All Out Blitz gave way as Coal Front took the lead to complete the distance in 1:43.45.
"He broke sharp and then I was able to give him a little break to get him off somebody," Velazquez said. "It worked out perfect."
"We were a little concerned when we saw the post, but the real key to his success today was getting away cleanly and getting a good position going into the first turn," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He had to go a little quick to get to the first turn, but turning up the backside he relaxed nicely."
The winner returned $4.60, $4, and $3.20 across the board.
Copper Bullet re-rallied to get up for second and paid $5.20 and $4.60, while Rated R Superstar closed to get third, returning $15.40.
"I followed Johnny (Velazquez)," Jose Ortiz said of his ride aboard Copper Bullet. "I thought they were going a little fast early. Down the backside, they were going plenty fast. That horse that pulled out the win is very impressive."
Jockey David Cabrera aboard rated R Superstar said his horse may have finished better, but he may have been intimidated by the close quarters.
"When I turned for home, I thought I was the winner," he said. "I tried to shoot for a hole, and he just kind of got intimidated. If he wouldn't have gotten intimidated, I think we would have gotten it."
Coal Front raced five times as a 2-year-old, winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course in his stakes debut and then taking the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing to close his freshman season. As a 3-year-old the son of Stay Thirsty only raced twice, placing fifth in the Nov. 2 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) and then ending the year with a win in the Dec. 22 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Razorback score was his first victory beyond seven furlongs and brought his total earnings to $777,280 from six wins out of eight lifetime starts.
Bred by Michael Edward Connelly in Kentucky, Coal Front is the forth foal and first graded stakes winner for his dam Miner's Secret (Mineshaft ). Coal Front is a half brother to stakes winner Conquest Titan and was a $575,000 purchase by LaPenta from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring 2-year-olds in Training Sale.