John D. Gunther's homebred Last Gunfighter outdueled defending champion San Pablo by a head in Sunday's Grade 3, $148,500 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park.
The Chad Brown-trained four-year-old colt settled in the back of the pack as San Pablo led the field as they entered the first turn. Raging Daoust took over on the outside to post a half-mile in :49 ⅖, pressed by Margano, with San Pablo just a half-length back in third. San Pablo quickly regained control down on the inside to cover three-quarters in 1:13 ⅗.
All the while, Last Gunfighter finally started to make a move four wide entering the far turn. At the top of the stretch San Pablo still held the lead, but Last Gunfighter emerged on the outside to challenge last year's Iselin winner. The two were in a fight to the finish as San Pablo dug in late, but it was Last Gunfighter who got up in the final yards for his fifth stakes score.
"I was told in the paddock that he's a grinder," jockey Joe Bravo said, "which played a big part in how I rode him. With that information I knew I wasn't going to get that one quick punch, so I wound up moving at the three-eighths pole. He has a big powerful stride and he just kept coming and coming all the way to the wire."
It was another 5 ½ lengths back to Jaguar Paw, Last Gunfighter's stablemate from the Brown barn, in third. Raging Daoust and Margano completed the order under the wire. The Monmouth Cup hero Pants On Fire, Percussion and Whatthecatdrugin were all scratched.
Last Gunfighter covered 1 ⅛ miles in 1:52 over the fast track. The 4-5 favorite returned $3.60 to his backers and now sports a career record of 12-7-3-2 and $635,405 in lifetime earnings.
Unraced at two, the dark bay began his career under the tutelage of Helen Pitts, for whom he placed in all four starts. He switched to Brown for the second half of his three-year-old campaign and wasted no time in breaking his maiden at Belmont Park in October.
Last Gunfighter rapidly climbed the class ladder at Aqueduct. Narrowly clearing his entry-level allowance condition in November, he romped by 4 ¾ lengths in his stakes debut in the December 9 Raymond Earl, next landed the January 19 Evening Attire and finished his reign at Aqueduct in his graded bow in the March 23 Excelsior.
The son of First Samurai extended his winning streak to six after taking the Pimlico Special by 4 ¼ lengths in May, but his run would come to an end as he had to settle for second behind Flat Out in the Suburban Handicap last month at Belmont.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Sir Cat mare Saratoga Cat, who is a half-sister to stakes scorers Saratoga Boot and Sexy Boots. Another family member, Costly Shoes, captured the 1988 Black-Eyed Susan. Further back, Last Gunfighter descends from the female line of champion and noted sire Dehere.