Updated on 09/16/2011 7:03AM

Sarafan victorious in Explosive Bid

Natalie Ardoin
Sarafan, who gave owner Gary Tanaka his second straight Explosive Bid win, paid $19.40 to win and ran one and one-eighth miles 1:48.88 over firm turf.

NEW ORLEANS - A Californian won the Explosive Bid Handicap with a powerful stretch run. It just wasn't the Californian most people expected.

In the first major stakes victory of his career, Sarafan ran down the highly touted Beat Hollow in deep stretch and won the $700,000 by a neck.

Before Sunday, the 5-year-old Sarafan had won only five races in his career, the best of which were a pair of minor stakes races, one in Europe, one in California. In the Grade 2 Explosive Bid, he proved best among a 14-horse field that included eight different graded stakes winners.

Beat Hollow, who shipped here from California with Sarafan earlier in the week, was judged by the betting public to be the best of them. A Group 1 winner in France, Beat Hollow opened up in the wagering at odds of 4-5 and went postward as a heavy favorite, but despite getting a perfect trip, he couldn't hold off Sarafan's late surge.

Breaking from post 11, Sarafan secured a good racing position under Corey Nakatani and raced in mid-pack while saving ground for much of the race. The pace in the Explosive Bid was honest, with Fan Club's Mister leading Even the Score through a quarter-mile in 23.86 seconds and a half in 48.27. Sarafan rated well behind the leaders, racing in eight-place down the backstretch before commencing a sustained rally.

Sarafan ran in traffic while he was moving up, but Nakatani said his trip was relatively trouble free. So, too, was that of Beat Hollow, who raced closer to the pace than Sarafan. "I had a great trip, no complaints," said jockey Alex Solis.

Fan Club's Mister threw in the towel before the stretch run, leaving Even the Score on the lead turning for home. A 74-1 shot, Even the Score opened a clear lead in mid-stretch before Beat Hollow challenged him, but just as Beat Hollow collared the leader, Sarafan swung out from behind horses, engaged Beat Hollow and forged to the lead in the final yards.

"He's more of a stayer than a horse that quickens up," Nakatani said. "I thought I had the other horse measured, and I guess I did. This is a nice horse. He's going to do some big things this year."

Sarafan, who gave owner Gary Tanaka his second straight Explosive Bid win, paid $19.40 to win and ran one and one-eighth miles 1:48.88 over firm turf. Even the Score held third, leading a parade of three local horses across the finish. Northcote Road, second in the race, was fourth, Candid Glen fifth. Only about four lengths separated the third- and last-place finishers.

Led by Hap's eighth-place finish, the East Coast-based horses disappointed. Hap's jockey, Pat Day, said he reached a contending position mid-way through the race, "but I was riding to get him there."

Sarfan was the only one of four California-based horses without a graded stakes win, but a good second-place finish earlier this month in the Grade 2 Kilroe Handicap gave trainer Neil Drysdale the confidence to send Sarafan to New Orleans.

"We were confident he fit in the race," said assistant trainer John O'Donoghue. "He's had some unlucky trips and lost some races he could have won. He was overdue for this."