GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- El Gato Malo recaptured his best form Saturday at Lone Star Park, when he overtook front-running Samba Rooster nearing the wire for a half-length win in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Derby. Leonides dug in late to nab second by a nose over third-place finisher Samba Rooster.
El Gato Malo, who had been under consideration for the Preakness, instead was targeted for the Lone Star Derby earlier this week. With the win Saturday, he rebounded from a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
"It's nice to get the horse back on track," said Craig Dollase, who trains El Gato Malo.
El Gato Malo ($5.40) settled in fifth along the inside Saturday, as Samba Rooster moved to the lead after the start of the mile and a sixteenth race. Samba Rooster was up by a length through fractions of 22.98 seconds for the opening quarter, 46.27 for the half-mile, and 1:10.20 for six furlongs. El Gato Malo advanced on the final turn, angled out into the stretch, and ran down the leaders. He covered the distance on a fast track in 1:43.04.
"He ran really well," said Rafael Bejarano, who rode El Gato Malo. "It was the first time for him to run on the dirt. He was very, very comfortable through the whole race."
El Gato Malo had run exclusively on synthetic surfaces in California prior to his start at Lone Star. He won the first three races of his career by a combined margin of 16 lengths, including the Grade 3 San Rafael at Santa Anita. For his win at Lone Star, El Gato Malo earned $225,000. He has now won 4 of 6 starts and $440,200.
Dollase said El Gato Malo would fly back to California at Monday, and that next-race plans would be determined after he consults with owner West Point Thoroughbreds. The Lone Star Derby was Dollase's second major stakes win of the meet. Last month, he sent Monterey Jazz here to win the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile.
El Gato Malo, who was favored in the Lone Star Derby, added blinkers Saturday. The remaining order of finish in the race was Limestone Edge in fourth, followed by My Pal Charlie, Texas Wildcatter, Golden Yank, King's Silver Son, Ide Like a Double, Real Appeal, Fort Apache, Poni Colada and Isabull.
Lone Star Park, 10th Race - May 10, 2008