06/01/2013 4:53PM

Pimlico: Cerro outbattles Dynamic Strike in Canonero II

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Cerro (2), ridden by Alan Garcia, narrowly prevails over Dynamic Strike and Forest Boyce in the Canonero II for 3-year-olds.

Rick Mettee, newly appointed trainer for Team Valor International, admitted he wasn’t sure whether putting blinkers on Cerro was the right move to make with the 3-year-old colt.

After watching the stretch run of Saturday’s $75,000 Canonero II Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico, in which Cerro and Alan Garcia won a head bob over Dynamic Strike and Forest Boyce, Mettee knew the new equipment played a positive factor.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword putting blinkers on a speed horse like him,” said Mettee, who won his first race for Team Valor after taking over for Graham Motion in May. “Fortunately, he didn’t get too keen. He needed [the blinkers].”

Although Team Valor International is the owner of record, the ownership partnership includes Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native, his longtime coach Bob Bowman, and former VISA USA chief executive Carl Pascarella.

Cerro ($3.20) was comfortably in front by two lengths through the first six furlongs in 1:13.22, but found himself in a battle when Dynamic Strike, winner of the one-mile Miracle Wood in February, moved up an opening along the rail and the two battled closely throughout the stretch run. Dynamic Strike appeared to gain a narrow lead in deep stretch but Cerro refused to fold and came bac. Dynamic Strike made one final surge, but his head was up and Cerro’s head was down as they hit the wire after 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.81.

It was Cerro’s third win in eight starts but his first since late January at Gulfstream Park. Mettee, who trained a few horses in California for Team Valor in the mid-1990s, said he felt fortunate to be able to get Garcia to come in from Churchill Downs for the mount.

“Alan didn’t have a lot going on at Churchill this weekend, so he took the mount. He’ll probably do a lot more riding for us when we’re shipping around the country this summer,” Mettee said.

It was a tough beat for Dynamic Strike, who most recently had finished a distant fourth in the Federico Tesio.

“He ran very well,” said Boyce, who was aboard Dynamic Strike. “He runs better when he is in striking distance. I had to move early because the other horse was getting his own way early on. I am very proud of the effort and he is just going to get better and better.”