Not only did Street Cry colt, owned, trained and bred in Kentucky by Myung Kwon Cho, dispatch many of the leading 2-year-olds in the country, he broke his maiden in what was his fifth start.
Street Hero, who had closely pursued West Coast hotshot Midshipman in his last two starts including the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, turned the tables in the Norfolk as the pair of 2-year-olds raced around two turns for the first time.
1 1/16 miles in 1:42.12. Midshipman, ridden by Tyler Baze, got the best of a three-horse photo for the place while edging Believe in Hope by a nose with pace-setter Del Conte another nose back in fourth.
Regal Ransom, the 7-5 favorite who had flown in from the East for Darley Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, was never a serious factor while fading to eighth after pressing the pace. Another Easterner, Silent Valor, who had won Saratoga’s Sapling Stakes in his previous start, checked in fifth.
“I can hardly talk, I’m so excited,” said Cho in the winner’s circle. “Down the stretch, my heart was pumping. This is my biggest win, and I’ve been training around 17 years.” The 66-year-old Cho maintains a five-horse stable at Santa Anita. “I think I have to go to the Breeders’ Cup,” added Cho. “If I don’t go, the rider’s going to kill me.”
“I was in a tough position from the 5/16th pole to the top of the stretch,” said Solis. “Finally, I had enough horse to get out. He’s still a little green. He’s still learning.”
The addition of blinkers to Street Hero’s equipment clearly paid dividends.
“I noticed at Del Mar that this horse could use blinkers and I told Mr. Cho,” Solis said. “I told Mr. Cho, ‘We’re going to win the Norfolk.’ He was much better today, and he’s just learning how to run.”
In recording his first victory, Street Hero paid $14.20, $6.40 and $4. Midshipman paid $4.40 and $3.20 as the 3-1 second choice in the field of nine. Believe in Hope, with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard, paid $5.60 to show.
Despite running second, Tyler Baze was undeterred. “My horse ran a perfect race,” said Baze. “This will set him up great for the Breeders’ Cup. He is the best colt I have ever been on. I am really excited about riding him in the Breeders’ Cup.”
“It was a good experience for him, going two turns for the first time,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Midshipman. “He lost a lot of ground, but he got beat by a good horse and he learned a lot today. I’m happy with it.”
Street Hero’s winning purse of $150,000 nearly tripled his previous bankroll of $56,360 earned from a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds in his four previous starts.
With Garrett Gomez gaining his 3000th career victory in a driving finish, Hyperbaric ran his way into the Breeders’ Cup Mile with a dramatic triumph in the 23rd running of the Grade II, $200,000 Oak Tree Mile.
A 5-year-old gelding trained by Julio Canani for Prestonwood Racing, Hyperbaric took command from Tropic Storm entering the stretch and withstood the bold charge by Tybalt to emerge victorious by a neck.
As was the Norfolk, the Oak Tree Mile was part of the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” series that assures the winner a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup to be held at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 & 25.
Tropic Storm, who set much of the pace under Aaron Gryder, gamely held third, three-quarters of a length behind the late-running Tybalt ridden by Rafael Bejarano. The final time for the turf event was 1:33.62.
It was the third successive win with Gomez in the saddle for Hyperbaric, who, as the favorite, paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.60. Tybalt returned $5.80 and $3.60 in the field of eight. The show price on Tropic Storm was $4.40.
Although he had finished off the board but once in 10 previous starts, Sunday’s win was the first for Hyperbaric in a graded stakes race. “The horse has been running well in Grade I and Grade II races,” noted Canani. “He’s a nice horse as he proved as a 3-year-old, and he’s getting better with age.”
The winning purse of $120,000 increased the Kentucky-bred son of Sky Classic’s earnings to $414,476 from an overall record of 6-2-2 in eleven starts.
In the winner’s circle, Gomez savored his career milestone. “I’ve had some bumps in the road,” he said, “and I think a milestone like this makes you reflect back and appreciate where you are. I think I’m a better person because of what I’ve been through. As long as I keep winning, I hope to get to 4,000 pretty quick.”
The 36-year-old native of Arizona had overcome substance abuse problems to achieve an Eclipse Award last year as the nation’s leading jockey.
In an earlier stakes race that served as possible egress into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, 20-1 shot Tizzy’s Tune rallied for a half-length victory over 11-10 favorite Tiz Elemental in the $72,990 Pine Tree Line Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. Magnificience, the 8-5 second choice, finished third, another two lengths back.
Immediately after the race run in 1:14.45, the connections of the first three finishers were uncertain about Breeders’ Cup plans.
“We haven’t thought about it much,” said Arnold Zetcher, owner of the victorious 5-year-old mare trained by Ron McAnally and ridden by Alex Solis. “She put it all together today,” Solis said. The Pine Tree Lane marked Tizzy’s Tune’s initial stakes victory to boost her record to 4-5-2 in 14 starts for earnings of $195,953.
After dark days on Monday and Tuesday, the Oak Tree meet will resume on Wednesday with first post at 1 p.m. and a Pick Six carryover of $138,410 after there were no winning tickets on Sunday.