Updated on 09/17/2011 11:18PM

Bishop Court Hill wins first stakes

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Bishop Court Hill wins the $70,110 Paumonok Handicap by one length at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Proving that perseverance indeed pays off, the 6-year-old Bishop Court Hill earned his first stakes win Saturday, leading every step of the way under Jose Santos to take the $70,110 by one length at Aqueduct.

Spooky Mulder chased Bishop Court Hill the entire way around the track, settling for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of 9-5 favorite Wild Jam. Pioneer Empire, Super Fuse, and Redskin Warrior completed the order of finish. Banjo Picker was scratched.

Bishop Court Hill was winless in his previous nine stakes tries, including a second-place finish in the Kennedy Road Stakes at Woodbine in his last start.

"It comes late. It's just great that it came, because he deserves it," said Seth Benzel, the assistant to Todd Pletcher, trainer of Bishop Court Hill. "He's a talented racehorse."

Bishop Court Hill, who had been winless since July 30, 2004, may have been helped by the scratch of Banjo Picker, the front-running winner of last month's Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap.

Under Santos, Bishop Court Hill jumped out on top and ran an opening quarter in 22.50 seconds. Entering the far turn, Santos had Bishop Court Hill open up, and he came to the quarter pole with a two-length lead. Spooky Mulder and Wild Jam took runs at him in the stretch, but Bishop Court Hill held them off. He covered the six furlongs in 1:09.47 and returned $7.60 to win.

"This horse has such natural speed that I thought we could be on the lead no matter what," Benzel said. "It was just a matter of the fractions we'd have to carve out to do so. To me, the key to the race was at the three-eighths pole, when Jose let him spurt away by a length and a half, and I think that ended up being the winning move."

For Santos, the Paumonok win was the 3,998th North American victory of his career.