Updated on 09/18/2011 1:07AM

Comebacker El Don wins San Matean Handicap

Vassar Photography
El Don (6) wins the $71,350 San Matean Handicap at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

SAN MATEO, Calif. - El Don ($9.60), making his first start since a disappointing 10th-place finish when favored in the Cal Cup Mile last November, held on gamely in the stretch to outlast fast-finishing Sharp Writer in the $71,350 San Matean Handicap at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

El Don won the $100,000 California Turf Championship over the Longden Turf Course last Labor Day prompting owner-breeder John Harris to say, "We thought we had a Cal Cup horse."

But El Don tailed off and was turned out after the Cal Cup race.

"He had some aches and pains but nothing major," Harris said. "Marty (Jones, the trainer) has been patient with him and brought him back well."

El Don sat behind favored Cheroot's slow pace in the 1 1/16-mile stakes on the Longden Turf Course. Place Cowboy began to rally on the second turn, but El Don, who was between horses, put his head in front in the lane and continued gamely to the wire.

Sharp Writer, fifth in the field of six early, rallied strongly but missed by a head as El Don clocked 1:43.71 over the firm course.

"They really did a good job getting this horse ready," winning rider Russell Baze said. "I was supposed to take him back, but he was fresh and heavy-headed and wanted no part of it. On the turn when (Place Cowboy) came up to us, I said it was time to go."

Harris, who said one of his first stakes wins came with Big Jess in this race in 1972, saw his 5-year-old gelding earn $42,900 to lift his career earnings to $311,581 with his sixth victory in 19 starts.