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A lack of pace changed the game plan for odds-on choice Pioneerof the Nile, but jockey Garrett Gomez improvised, enabling the son of Empire Maker to hold off Chocolate Candy for a one-length win in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on a picture perfect day in Arcadia April 4.Trainer Bob Baffert collected his record fifth Santa Anita Derby win as Pioneerof the Nile fought his way to his fourth consecutive graded victory. The sleek dark bay colt is undefeated since he was transferred to Baffert's Southern California stable by owner Ahmed Zayat late last year prior to winning the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 20.Zayat, who temporarily took his horses away from Baffert in a dispute last year, gave his trainer a light kiss on the cheek after Pioneerof the Nile crossed the wire. The winning time in the 1 1/8-mile Pro-Ride event was a mediocre 1:49.17.Pioneerof the Nile will be one of the leading contenders in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 2 at Churchill Downs following his second grade I victory. The question that will hover over Pioneerof the Nile is how he'll handle the dirt. Four of his five wins to date have come on synthetic surfaces after breaking his maiden for trainer Bill Mott on the Saratoga turf last summer.After surprisingly pulling his way to the lead on the backstretch, Pioneerof the Nile took command from pacesetter Feisty Suances in upper stretch, and under frantic urging from Gomez, he opened a clear advantage. Chocolate Candy, who circled the field on the far turn for Joel Rosario, surged six wide into the stretch and was gaining mildly as they reached the wire. Mr. Hot Stuff ran on for third, with Take the Points fourth.Gomez, who said afterward that he couldn't hold Pioneerof the Nile back as they made their way to the front, picked up his first win in the Santa Anita Derby.

Author: partymanners
Keywords: santa anita horse racing pioneer of the nile garret gomez bob baffert trevor denman empire maker zayat stable
Added: April 4, 2009