07/01/2017 7:52PM

Cake Pop surges to win Cleveland Gold Cup

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J.J. Zamaiko
Cake Pop and Manny Cruz win the Cleveland Gold Cup by 2 1/4 lengths at Thistledown.

As the calendar turns to the second half of the year, Cake Pop moved to the head of the class among Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, rallying to score an emphatic victory in the $75,000 Daniel Stearns Cleveland Gold Cup on Saturday at Thistledown. 

The nine-furlong race marked the third stakes victory for Cake Pop, but his first career win around two turns. He previously won last year’s Hoover Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs and the Tall Stack Stakes in May going 6 1/2 furlongs, both at Belterra Park. He came in to the Cleveland Gold Cup having exchanged stakes decisions with Tough It Up and Strike Your Light, both of whom he faced again Saturday.

Under Manoel Cruz, Cake Pop ($11.40) settled well in fifth early as Shadeslayer, trying stakes company for the first time after winning his first two starts, led the field through an opening six furlongs of 1:13.40 while closely attended by Hansenation and Coincidentally. Tough It Up, last after that first six furlongs, made a sweeping move on the far turn, closely followed by Strike Your Light, and led the latter by a head into the stretch.

But as those two dueled, Cruz shifted Cake Pop out four wide to find running room. The colt came on with a rush in the final sixteenth to surge past Tough It Up and win by 2 1/4 lengths going away.

“He ran a great race,” said trainer Michael Lauer, who campaigns Cake Pop as a homebred with his wife, Penny. “He relaxed off the pace, made his run and ground it out. I figured with everybody going a mile and an eighth for the first time that a couple would go and he could stay back. Manny rode a great race.”

The final time for the nine furlongs on a track rated good was 1:52.80.

Tough It Up pulled clear to be second by 2 1/4 lengths over Strike Your Light, with the rest of the field strung out behind them.