RCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2015)—Texas-bred Pure Tactics rallied from off the pace to take Sunday’s $75,000 Clockers’ Corner Stakes by a half length under Mike Smith, negotiating 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 1:12.28. Trained by Doug O’Neill, Pure Tactics shortened up out of a sixth place run in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles turf Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar Nov. 28 and notched his second win from five tries down the hill.
“He’s run well down the hill before and this came up good on the calendar so we thought we’d give it a chance,” said O’Neill. “Mike rode a brilliant race, like he always does. When you have a horse that likes the hillside, it’s a real advantage.”
Off at 6-1 in a field of 11 older horses, Pure Tactics paid $14.40, $7.80 and $5.20.
Midpack under a snug hold past the half mile pole, Smith overhauled favored Sweet Swap inside the sixteenth pole and held off the late surge of runner-up Hay Dude to register his ninth win from 21 overall starts. Owned by Nita Winner, LLC, Pure Tactics picked up $46,980 for the win, increasing his earnings to $360,836. The Clockers’ Corner victory marked his second win from five hillside engagements.
“We broke extremely well and when I wasn’t laying second and everyone was rushing up there, I thought ‘Wow, all these closers are trying to stay close,’” said Smith. “There wasn’t much speed, so I just thought ‘Let’s go to plan B and I’ll just be the closer.’ I eased back a little bit and that set up a closing (type of) trip.”
Hay Dude, who had to wait for room while Pure Tactics got first run, was, in the words of track announcer Trevor Denman, “a little unlucky,” and flew late with Kent Desormeaux to finish second by a neck over Sweet Swap. The second choice at 7-2, he paid $6.20 and $3.60.
When apprised of Denman’s deep-stretch description, Desormeaux responded, “He’s right. I had a couple doors close—first at the eighth pole and again at the sixteenth.”
Sweet Swap, who broke from the rail with Joe Talamo, was in tight quarters crossing the dirt at the top of the lane, but Talamo just managed to find room inside pacesetter Fly Lexis Fly but couldn’t hold off the one-two finishers late and was beaten less than three quarters of a length for the win. Off at 5-2, he paid $3.20 to show.
Racing resumes at Santa Anita on Thursday, with first post time at 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.