by Brian Bohl
Empire State Thoroughbreds' Bon Raison enjoyed a successful-if-eventful trip, breaking on top, pulling back to the rear of the field on the backside and overtaking 2-1 favorite He Hate Me in deep stretch to win the sixth running of the $100,000 Tale of the Cat on Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
Bon Raison, under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., broke sharply from the outermost post but quickly took back as He Hate Me dueled Pat On the Back, with the former leading the six-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 22.36 seconds and the latter taking command with a 45.15 half on the fast main track.
Out of the turn, Ortiz, Jr. urged Bon Raison from the rear of the tightly bunched field, and his charge responded by picking off opponents one-by-one from the far outside before digging in and moving past He Hate Me in the final sixteenth, winning by three-quarters of a length in completing the six-furlong sprint in 1:09.34.
"I didn't really have to take back from the pace, because he doesn't have that type of speed, so I just let him be. That worked out better for me because I didn't have to use much of my horse early," Ortiz, Jr. said. "They ran away from me, but I took my time. When I saw they were fighting [for the lead] up front, I knew that was good for me. I just waited and saved my run. I always knew my horse had run for the end and we came running and got it."
Bon Raison captured his first stakes since the Peeping Tom on March 30. Starting with that victory at Aqueduct Racetrack, the Raison d'Etat colt has compiled a 4-1-2 record in nine starts for trainer Carlos Martin, making 13 starts overall in his 4-year-old campaign.
"I saw him today in the paddock and he's always been a good-feeling horse," Martin said. "He pranced all the way from our barn, and it's a bit of a walk. He was just on his game. Everyone was saying how much we run the horse, but the owner is old school. Every time he runs, he's never given us a bad run all season."
Off as the longest shot on the board at 8-1, Bon Raison, who ran second against allowance company on July 19 at the Spa, returned $18.60 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $439,818.
"The smile was creeping up every sixteenth," Martin said. "Irad was just so comfortable with him. When he made that run, I knew he was going to come strong. I just didn't know if we were going to be able to catch the horse that beat us last time, He Hate Me. Then Irad, really, really rode strong. Last time, he got off him and said, 'I want to ride this horse no matter where you run him again.' He was real excited about the horse, so that made us feel good."
Martin said the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor at seven furlongs on Travers Day, August 24, remains a possibility.
"We'll see how he comes back," Martin said. "He's a fighter so if he's doing well, I'm sure you see him before the end of the meet."
He Hate Me, conditioned by Stanley Hough, finished 2 ¾-lengths clear of Pat On the Back for runner-up status in his first stakes appearance in seven starts.
"I thought we were in a great spot, but when we came to the turn that other horse [Bon Raison] was flying. He tried hard," said He Hate Me jockey Luis Saez.
Killybegs Captain, Ruler of the Nile and Skyler's Scramjet completed the order of finish. Uno Mas Modelo and Eight Town were scratched.
The Tale of the Cat is named after the 1997 Grade 2 King's Bishop-winner who ran second to Awesome Again in the 1998 Grade 1 Whitney. He was trained by John Forbes and ridden by Julie Krone, compiling a 5-1-2 record in nine career starts. As a sire, he has produced runners who have won more than 150 stakes, including future millionaires Tale of the Ekati, Lion Heart, Stopchargingmaria and Gio Ponti.
Live racing will resume Saturday with an 11-race card that features the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Mile, as well as the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special presented by Miller Lite for 2-year-olds. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.