Updated on 09/17/2011 11:06AM

Ninebanks wins Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap

Vassar Photo
Ninebanks ($7.20) wins by a nose in the Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

ALBANY, Calif. - Ninebanks got a dream trip and edged pacesetting Surprise Halo by a nose to win the $136,250 Grade 3 at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

Ninebanks broke alertly, but jockey Ron Warren Jr. was content to led Surprise Halo take the lead in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. The two were well in front of favored Royal Gem and Capt. Fly Hook, and it was strictly a two-horse race the entire way.

Warren stayed one length behind Surprise Halo all the way, moving up in the stretch and winning in game style. Royal Gem was 6? (six one-half) lengths back, two lengths in front of Capt. Fly Hook

"I tried to play the difference, keeping the horse on the lead honest and having enough to get by," Warren said.

"He likes to be by himself or behind horses," Surprise Halo's jockey Frank Alvarado said. "I was on the rail so I took the lead. Everything's cool, no excuses, but I wish they'd let him go."

Warren, well aware of how hard Surprise Halo tries, used a little gamesmanship on the second turn.

"I kinda clucked at the 3/8ths pole, and (Surprise Halo) dug in a little bit. My horse didn't care. He was waiting till I hit him."

Jockey Russell Baze said favored Royal Gem never really responded during the race.

"I wasn't surprised he got beat, but I thought I'd get more run out of him," Baze said. "Maybe he didn't care for the track, although he seemed to be getting enough hold of it."

Royal Gem lugged in on the second turn as Baze tried to get him past Capt. Fly Hook. He had to jerk him hard to avoid a bumping incident but said that didn't affect the race.

"At that point, he wasn't wanting to run," Baze said.

Concerns about the weather limited the field to four, including three locally based entries. The turf course was listed as yielding, but riders said rains this week actually helped the course. The winning time was 1:50.07.

Ninebanks, who defeated Surprise Halo by one-half length in winning the $100,000 California Turf Championship at Bay Meadows last Sept. 2, earned $82,500 for his first graded stakes victory. He has won eight of 27 starts, earning $406,793.