Harrods Creek draws off in John's Call
Hiram C. Polk and J. David Richardson's homebred Harrods Creek, who has been knocking on the door in stakes company, finally broke through decisively in Friday's $100,000 John's Call Stakes at Saratoga. With new rider Junior Alvarado engineering a well-judged trip, the Bill Mott veteran surged past 6-5 favorite Tahoe Lake and Hailstone and stretched clear by 3 3/4 lengths.
The five-year-old Harrods Creek has taken time to develop, but since his third in last November's Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap, he has been a regular presence in marathons. Just denied by Eagle Poise in the Grade 3 Valedictory in track-record time at Woodbine in December, Harrods Creek ran another big race in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap in April, where he had a clear lead in midstretch before tiring to third. His other outings this season resulted in fourths in the Grade 2 Pan American (where only four ran) and Grade 3 Louisville Handicap, and most recently a sixth in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes at Arlington Park July 14.
On the strength of that useful resume, Harrods Creek was dispatched as the 2-1 second choice in the John's Call. He was well placed in fourth in the early going as Ballet Boy reeled off quick splits of :23 3/5 and :47 2/5 on the firm Mellon turf. The leader then throttled down to post fractions of 1:12 3/5 and 1:37 4/5.
Hailstone and Tahoe Lake bided their time in second and third, respectively, and the stalkers were in position to overtake Ballet Boy rounding the final turn. The first to strike was Hailstone, but Tahoe Lake went with him, and was alongside when reaching the 1 1/4-mile mark in 2:03.
But striding best of all was Harrods Creek, who had angled to the outside for the drive. Picking up strongly, he overwhelmed the battling Tahoe Lake and Hailstone and won with complete authority. Harrods Creek completed 1 5/8 miles in 2:38 2/5 and returned $6, $3 and $2.40.
Tahoe Lake got the better of Hailstone by a neck for second. Game Ball closed for fourth, another half-length away. There were long gaps back to Inscrutable and Ballet Boy.
"The race didn't really unfold the way we thought it would on paper," Mott revealed. "We thought it would unfold a little differently. We thought the number 5 horse, Hailstone, would show a little bit of speed. We thought we might be sitting second or even possibly on the lead, and it didn't work out that way.
"A couple more horses showed speed than we anticipated, but I think our rider made the judgment to let the horse settle where he was comfortable, and he picked up the pieces at the end. It worked out great."
"It was a mile and five eighths, so I didn't want to break and be aggressive," Alvarado explained. "I wanted to let him be comfortable, and he pretty much relaxed the whole way. By the three-eighths pole I tried to find a clear spot, and by the quarter-pole I had a clear one outside. I asked him and he responded right away. It was pretty easy after that."
Harrods Creek has compiled a 21-4-3-3 record and $262,703 in earnings. Third in the off-the-turf Cradle Stakes as a maiden at two, the chestnut didn't earn his first win until a year later. Several more months -- and starts -- elapsed before he cleared his entry-level allowance condition, checking that box early in his four-year-old campaign. Harrods Creek didn't run again for nearly eight months, but Mott pitched him into the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf off the layoff, and he was not disgraced in fifth. He captured a second-level allowance next out and has been competing at the graded level ever since, until the John's Call.
"Any added distance, I think, is beneficial to him," Mott said. "Last time (in the Stars and Stripes) he seemed a little dull for some reason; maybe he didn't handle the track over at Arlington very well. Can't explain it. They had a little rain, and it might've gotten a little bit slippery on top. It wasn't soft turf, but it was kind of slippery turf, and he didn't seem to like it. I thought the conditions today would probably suit him a little better."
The Kentucky-bred son of Langfuhr is out of the winning Float and Sting, by the speedy Two Punch, who is not exactly associated with stayers' pedigrees. Harrods Creek likely gets a bit of heft from his female line, responsible for Grade 2 heroine Ratings and her descendants Smart Bid, Deal Making, Anthony's Cross and Fugitive Angel.
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