02/14/2015 7:16PM

Golden Lad makes late move to prevail in Essex Handicap

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Golden Lad wins the Essex Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Trainer Todd Pletcher said earlier this week that Golden Lad ran fresh in his seasonal debut last month, and he was looking for the horse to run a strong race Saturday in the $100,000 Essex Handicap. Golden Lad delivered, as he settled into a stalking position, moved to the fore in the stretch, then drew clear for a 1 3/4-length win over the 4-5 favorite Ride On Curlin.

Following the race, a claim of foul was lodged against Golden Lad by Jon Court, who was aboard Ride On Curlin, but it was disallowed, and the order of finish stood. For Golden Lad, it was his second Oaklawn stakes win, following his victory in last year’s Grade 3 Razorback Handicap, and it came before an estimated on-track crowd of 24,000.

Pletcher said the success in the Razorback was one of the reasons Golden Lad returned to Oaklawn for the Essex, which marked his second start since last May. He made his seasonal debut Jan. 10 in the Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream Park, and after dueling through six furlongs, he finished fifth, eight lengths behind the winner Lea.

On Saturday, Golden Lad ($10) rated off the pace in fourth, with Rocket Time taking the field through fractions of 23.55 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.70 for the half-mile, and 1:12.89 for six furlongs in the 1 1/16-mile handicap for 4-year-olds and up. Golden Lad struck the front into the stretch, then went on to win on a track rated fast in 1:44.05.

“When I asked him a little bit turning for home, he started opening up,” said Ricardo Santana Jr., who was aboard Golden Lad.

Golden Lad earned $60,000 for the win for owner E Paul Robsham Stables. Golden Lad now has won 6 of 12 starts and $327,420. He is a 5-year-old horse by Medaglia d’Oro, and he was bred in Kentucky by Robsham Stables.

I Got It All finished third in the Essex, a length behind Ride On Curlin.

Handle on the first 10-race card of the meet was $5,011,025 from all sources Saturday.