Memorial Day at Lone Star Park belonged to the dirty old man in the field.
Majestic City, the oldest to exit the gate and perhaps rejuvenated under a new trainer and some time off, outpaced his four as-muddy rivals from start to finish on a sloppy surface in winning the $200,000 Lone Star Park Handicap to claim his first victory in almost two years.
The 6-year-old Californian from Santa Anita, who went off at 6-1, held off heavy favorites Carve and Tapiture, a Kentucky Derby veteran trained by Steve Asmussen, down the stretch in running the 1 1/16 miles in 1 minute, 43.31 seconds.
For his victory in a race of 3-year-olds and up, Majestic City, under jockey Charles Lopez, won $125,000 for owner Jeffrey Bloom of Bloom Racing Stable.
The race marked the first for Majestic City under trainer Richard Baltas, who took over oversight of the horse 2 1/2 months ago.
“We changed a few things,” Baltas said. “He’s been training up a storm in Santa Anita. We were looking for a race, but we couldn’t find one at Santa Anita.
“I didn’t know Tapiture and Carve were going to be here, but … .”
A $2 bet returned $15, $4.60 and $2.40. The exacta returned $33.60, the trifecta $54.80.
Carve went off at 3-5 while Tapiture, a Derby competitor in 2014 and a second at the Breeders’ Cup dirt mile, left the gate at 3-2. Tapiture, who has earned more than $1.4 million in his career, didn’t have a kick, running in the back throughout until surging in the straightaway.
Majestic City, who entered with more than $450,000 in earnings, disposed of would-be rivals from the start. Cy Seven galloped near the front while Carve tracked the pace and overtook second at the three-quarter mile marker.
Carve stayed at Majestic City’s neck until the finish.
The sloppy track, left a mushy mess after a heavy rainstorm that delayed racing for about an hour, helped, Baltas said.
“This horse needs to be back on the lead,” Baltas said. “If you look at his form, his best races were on the lead. I told Chuck, go to the front and see what happens.”
Said Lopez of Majestic City: “He dug in and did his job.”
The race was the third of the season and first since March 15 for the mellow Majestic City, who has a mean competitive streak when the tack and saddle cloth are applied.
The stallion hadn’t won since October 2013, but retirement doesn’t appear to be in his immediate future.
Where he races next is undecided. His first trip is back home to California.
“I’m happy, I’m not surprised,” Baltas said. “He’s been training good. I was hoping. Sometimes horses you think are doing really good and then they don’t run very good. And then it’s back to scratching your head.
“Maybe we can have a good campaign with him.”