Bruce Smart Jr.’s lightly regarded Bonded surged after the last fence under Bernie Dalton and drew clear in the final 70 yards to win Saratoga Race Course’s $65,000 allowance hurdle on Thursday.
North Star Boy, owned by High Kings Racing, Gerry Foley, and trainer Niall Saville, finished second, and Gil Johnston’s 2.95-to-1 favorite Miguel Grau took third money in a field of eight.
Trained by Jimmy Day, Irish-bred Bonded ran the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:53.36 on firm turf and paid $40.60 to win as the longest price on the tote board.
Jennifer Pitts’ Bau Bai Gold, the only mare in the field, jumped out to a huge early lead under Ross Geraghty, with Magalen O. Bryant’s Smart Rush filling the second position well behind the leader for the first circuit of Saratoga’s inner turf course.
Bau Bai Gold’s lead diminished to a few lengths past the wire the second time, and Geraghty began to press Bau Bai Gold after the next-to-last fence as her competitors closed on them. North Star Boy, the 3-to-1 second betting choice ridden by Darren Nagle, charged into contention on the final turn and took the lead when Bau Bai Gold fell at the last.
Dalton had placed Bonded in contention leaving the turn and shifted him to the inside after nailing the final fence. With a powerful move, Bonded swept past North Star Boy in deep stretch and easily drew clear late. Miguel Grau jumped into contention at the last and closed modestly to take the show spot, a half-length behind North Star Boy.
By Oasis Dream (GB), eight-year-old Bonded collected his first victory since a maiden hurdle win at the 2013 Virginia Gold Cup meet. He missed the 2014 racing season and was making only his second start over fences since that victory.