Transitioning from turf to dirt was just what the doctor ordered for Captain Scotty, who perfectly rationed his abundant early speed to score an upset victory in the $200,000 Palos Verdes (G2) on Saturday at Santa Anita.
A lightly-raced 6-year-old conditioned by Peter Miller, Captain Scotty entered the 6-furlong Palos Verdes off a close fifth-place finish in the Joe Hernandez (G2) on grass. But all of Captain Scotty’s victories have come on dirt, and returning to his preferred surface prompted the gelding to deliver a career-best performance.
With jockey Abel Cedillo in the saddle, Captain Scotty broke alertly from the rail and quickly pulled clear through an opening quarter-mile in :22.39. Flagstaff, the 9-10 favorite, was content to track in second, while Speed Pass and Grinning Tiger trailed the compact field.
In the end, the running order never changed. Captain Scotty continued to lead through a half-mile in :45.22, and while Flagstaff made a gallant effort to chase him down in the homestretch, Captain Scotty dug deep under urging to prevail by a neck in 1:09.46.
“Pete (Miller) told me to try to go to the lead, when I saw the race was a two horse, two speed type of race I tried to slow it down,” Cedillo told Santa Anita. “He was trying to run off, but I got him to relax pretty good, he finished pretty good.”
Flagstaff ran a big race in his own right, pulling six lengths clear of Speed Pass, while Grinning Tiger completed the order of finish. Two expected pace factors, Ax Man and St. Joe Bay, scratched. Ax Man is entered in Sunday’s Clocker’s Corner on the turf.
Bred in Kentucky by John R. Mulholland and Martha Jane Mulholland, Captain Scotty was sold for just $75,000 as a yearling and currently races for the partnership of Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber.
“The key with this horse is to keep him (running) short,” said Barber. “He didn’t run bad on the grass, but I think he’s a little better on dirt. He’s a nice horse and he’s consistent all the time. He’s proven he belongs in stakes.”
A son of Quality Road out of the Aggressive Chief mare She Is Raging, Captain Scotty has run just 13 times, accumulating four victories and $321,095 in earnings. The Palos Verdes marked Captain Scotty’s first triumph against stakes company, but judging from the determination he displayed down the homestretch, it might not be his last.