Thoroughbreds dutifully complied with the Call to the Post, returning to the gates for an 18th season at Lone Star Park on Thursday night.
One steed needed no prompting on what turned out to be his redemption day.
Solar Charge, who went off at 3-to-1, rallied late to upset prohibitive favorite and nemesis Triumph and Song in the $50,000 Premiere Stakes race for Texas-bred 3-year-olds and up.
The victory was Solar Charge’s first in four attempts against the defending champion and winner of three consecutive stakes races.
The 7-year-old, who under the mount of jockey Glen Murphy covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1 minute, 17.63 seconds, was claimed by owners Carolyn Barnett and Lana Alford last year. He is trained by Ellen Williams.
“I knew our day would come,” Williams said of facing off with Triumph. “Solar Charge isn’t going to give up. We’re not going to give up.
“He’s a real professional.”
More than 6,000 fans turned out for Opening Night, making mutuel tellers resemble hummingbirds at the feeder. On-track wagering totaled $343,206.70. Total handle was $1,060,093.45, according to track officials.
Those figures are expected to increase significantly Friday night when noted Texas country act Josh Abbott Band takes the stage. Post time is 6:35 p.m.
A $2 win ticket on Solar Charge paid $9.40. The $2 exacta paid $16.40 and the trifecta brought in $30.
Solar Charge will continue to eat well. His owners earned $30,000 for the victory.
H and H Ranch, Triumph and Song’s owners, won $10,000. An award of $5,500 was paid to Wimp Free Racing Stable, the owner of third-place finisher Gold Element. Owners of fourth and fifth places, Call Me Mr. Special and Circustown Flower, took home $3,000 and $1,500.
While Triumph and Song set the pace under pressure from the gates and moved clear, Solar Charge, paced by Murphy, stayed about four lengths off the pace on the backstretch.
As the field softened at the turn and Triumph and Song appeared to tire, strapping Solar Charge dug in and responded favorably to Murphy’s persistent persuasion.
“He leaves the gates hard and he lets you put him wherever you want,” Murphy said. “He’s been chasing Triumph and Song for the last couple of months, so it’s good to turn the tables.
“He was rolling the last eighth of a mile.”
Solar Charge’s new life has made all the difference to his and his owners’ fortunes, according to Williams.
He’s won more than $400,000 in 49 career starts.
Tranquility is what he’s found at his new home, which Williams described as a small training center. He loves the peace and quiet and the laid-back atmosphere, Williams said.
“When we got him, he needed a little freshening up,” said Williams, while also expressing admiration for his previous owners, adding that it would be hard to have found a better maintained horse at 7 years old.
“He’d been run hard, and he’s one of these who gives it 100 percent every time. We gave him a little time, and he’s gotten better with every race.”
Solar Charge also is quite the determined racer.
Entering Race No. 5 on Thursday, he was 0-4 head-to-head against Triumph. Williams bristled at the suggestion that Lone Star’s annual Premiere Stakes ended in an upset.
“This is horse racing and anything can happen in horse racing,” Williams said. “This is gratification, a reward … our triumph.”