08/02/2009 12:00AM

Former claimer upsets Governor's Cup

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In a field that contained three graded stakes winners, a locally based former claimer stole the spotlight in the richest race in Penn National Race Course's 37-year history.

Cardashi, a 7-year-old gelding who was claimed for $10,000 in February, earned the biggest victory of his 42-race career when he scored by 1 1/2 lengths in Saturday night's $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup.

Cardashi was the second longest shot in a field of nine older turf sprinters and paid $61 to win after completing five furlongs over yielding ground in 56.23 seconds. The winner s share of $120,000 nearly equaled the $146,085 he had earned in his previous 41 starts.

The field Cardashi beat included Smart Enough, a two-time Grade 3 winner this season; Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in May; True Quality, winner of the Grade 2 General George Handicap in February; and Yankee Injunuity, who won the $200,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap last time out.

For most of his career, Cardashi had competed for a claiming tag, running for as low as $6,250 in 2007. Trainer Tim Kreiser took Cardashi for $10,000 on Feb. 26, and the horse proceeded to lose three more races on the main track before Kreiser tried him on turf for the first time. In four starts on grass, Cardashi has now won three times, including the local prep for the Governor's Cup on July 15.

"My horse was very sharp winning the stakes prep over this course two weeks ago," said winning rider David Cora. "In the stretch, I didn't see anyone closing from behind, and then the leader got tired and I still had plenty of horse left. He loves this turf course."

Never worse than second under a ground-saving ride from Cora, Cardashi powered by pacesetter Blue Sailor in deep stretch. Blue Sailor, an 11-time winner on grass, ran the first quarter-mile in 21.07 seconds and the half in 44.07 before shortening stride. He held on for second over late-closing Chamberlain Bridge while 9-5 favorite Smart Enough, winner of the $200,000 Highlander Sprint at Woodbine on June 21, tried the inside route in the lane but never menaced and finished fifth.

In the other stakes on the card:

Letter of the Law ($15.40), making her first start on turf after three races on synthetic surfaces, defeated 6-5 favorite Greeley's Rocket by 1.5 lengths in the $75,000 Turf Starlet for 2-year-old fillies.

Heavy favorite Dr Large ($4) ran down pacesetter Shine for Steve to prevail by a neck in the $75,000 Capital City, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

Pashito the Che ($16.60), switching from turf to dirt, beat 9-5 favorite Great Love by 1 3/4 lengths in the $75,000 East Hanover Township, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.

Total handle on the 11-race card was $1.7 million.