08/28/2016 9:08AM

One Mean Man triumphs by a nose in Mystic Lake Derby

Coady Photography
One Mean Man, with Robby Albarado up, wins the Mystic Lake Derby by a nose Saturday at Canterbury Park.

SHAKOPEE, Minnesota – One Mean Man was behind 20 yards before the finish and 20 yards past it, but at the wire of the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby he put his head down to beat Whatawonderflworld by a scant nose.

The richest race of the Canterbury Park meeting also ranked among its most exciting, with favored One Mean Man buried along the fence most of the stretch run before finally finding room under Orlando Mojica.

“That’s the definition of gameness right there,” trainer Bernie Flint said in the winner’s circle.

One Mean Man is as rugged as he is game. This marked his ninth start of 2016, and One Mean Man has had a very busy summer, racing five times since May 28. Just two weeks ago he finished a close fourth in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington, yet One Mean Man came into the saddling enclosure on the muscle and still breathing fire.

“He’s gotten better, bigger and stronger, every month,” said Flint, who co-owns and co-bred One Mean Man with Ron Hillerich. “He was the only horse in the race that ran without Bute, too. He’s gritty, and he’s game.”

Bushrod crossed from post 8 to set a slow pace on a good turf course, going 25.22 to the quarter and 49.77 for his first half-mile. One Mean Man never was far from the lead, but midway around the far turn Mojica was on the rail and committed to an inside run. Bushrod fell away and for an instant One Mean Man had clear running, but Whatawonderflworld rushed up to fill the void, and Robby Albarado, who had ridden One Mean Man his last three starts, gave no quarter.

“I knew he was down there,” Albarado said. “He was hemmed, stuck; I thought he’d have to come around.”

Mojica waited and waited, the furlong grounds came, and finally Whatawonderflworld drifted right just enough to squeeze a horse between him and the fence. One Mean Man never hesitated.

“He waited, waited, and waited, and finally got his little head through there,” Flint said. “He’s a wonderful horse, he runs with grit, and if there’s anyone around him, he’s going to get his head down.”

Whatawonderflworld, making his first start since March for trainer Mark Casse, ran one of his best races taking a tough loss, and Hay Dakota, another neck back in third, also ran well in defeat, his wide run from too far behind the slow tempo falling just short. One Mean Man paid $4.40 to win and ran one mile on good turf in 1:39.71.

One Mean Man is by Mizzen Mast and out of the mare Abbeyville Miss, and is the fourth generation of his family to race for co-owner and co-breeder Hillerich. One Mean Man narrowly missed in the Arlington Classic in June and won the Grade 3 American Derby in July, and ran his record to 5-3-1 from 15 starts with the Mystic Lake Derby. Flint said the colt is due a rest – a well deserved one.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Get handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, special reports, and charts. Unlock access with DRF Plus.