07/02/2011 7:59PM

Hollywood Park: Courageous Cat holds off challenge to win Shoemaker Mile

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Benoit & Associates
Courageous Cat, under Patrick Valenzuela, holds off Caracortado to win the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Courageous Cat’s gritty win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park left winning jockey Patrick Valenzuela in a forecasting mood after the race.

“This horse is so much better than when I rode him in the Shadwell Mile,” Valenzuela said, referring to a third-place finish in the Grade 1 race at Keeneland last fall. “I can almost guarantee he’ll win the Breeders’ Cup Mile, even if they bring that filly over.”

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That filly is Goldikova, who has won the last three runnings of the BC Mile and is being pointed to this year’s race at Churchill Downs in November. Courageous Cat was second to Goldikova in the 2009 BC Mile at Santa Anita and has a berth in this year’s race through his win in the Shoemaker Mile. The race was part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program, offering a fees-paid berth to the winner of the Shoemaker Mile for the BC Mile.

Courageous Cat captured Valenzuela’s attention with his finish. After stalking pacesetter Liberian Freighter through early fractions of 24.02 and 47.31 seconds, Courageous Cat took the lead in early stretch. Caracortado, who was third for the first half-mile, was a half-length behind Courageous Cat with a furlong to go and challenged the winner to the wire, losing by a neck.

Courageous Cat ($4) ran a mile on turf in 1:33.19.

“He wants to win and he just kept trying,” Valenzuela said. “He relaxed so good for me, too.”

Caracortado, the 5-2 second choice, finished 4 3/4 lengths in front of Victor’s Cry, the defending champion of the Shoemaker. For Caracortado, the Shoemaker was his third placing in a Grade 1 race since Christmas.

“I don’t know what this horse has to do,” said co-owner and trainer Mike Machowsky. “He’s had some tough beats in races like this. He ran great.”

Victor’s Cry was followed by Blue Chagall, Smokey Lonesome, and Liberian Freighter. The Chilean import Ashtar was scratched in favor of the Sunset Handicap on July 17, trainer Ruben Cardenas said Saturday morning.

The Shoemaker Mile was Valenzuela’s 100th career stakes win at Hollywood Park. It was his first victory in a Grade 1 stakes since JP's Gusto won the Del Mar Futurity last September.

Courageous Cat won his first Grade 1 in the Shoemaker for owner-breeder Pam and Marty Wygod and trainer Bill Mott. Courageous Cat, a 5-year-old horse by Storm Cat, has won 6 of 13 starts and $961,300. The Shoemaker was Courageous Cat’s second start of 2011, preceded by a win in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10.