08/07/2016 9:07PM

Southern Freedom best by a head in Joseph Grace Handicap

Shane Miceli/Vassar Photography
Southern Freedom, with Alejandro Gomez aboard, wins his first stakes in the Joseph Grace Handicap.

Southern Freedom set the pace and appeared to be headed briefly by favored stablemate Outside Nashville but dug in gamely and won a photo by a head in the $55,100 Joseph T. Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa on Sunday.

Southern Freedom ($21.40), who had run in graded stakes in five of his past six starts, scored his first career stakes win.

Southern Freedom set honest fractions of 23.91 seconds, 48.19, and 1:12.35 in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for older runners as Hollywood Angel sat a length off him to his outside. Outside Nashville was third close behind the top duo while getting a ground-saving trip on the rail.

Southern Freedom, perhaps helped by the vet scratch of speedy stablemate Bronze Star, who had scored two straight front-running victories, opened ground on his rivals approaching the quarter pole.

That gave Outside Nashville a chance to angle into the clear under jockey Ricardo Gonzalez and set up a head-and-head duel during the final eighth of a mile.

Jockey Alejandro Gomez, who also won Saturday’s Robert Dupret Derby by a head with Sugar Buzz, kept Southern Freedom going along the rail as he gamely prevailed. The winning time was 1:41.97. Late-running Docs Legacy closed for third another 1 1/2 lengths back.

Gomez and Southern Freedom lost by a neck in the one-mile, Grade 3 All American on May 30 in the last start for the homebred son of Pure Prize.

The 5-year-old horse, who won for the seventh time in 24 starts, earned $33,000 to lift his career earnings to $265,285.

He is a Kentucky-bred by AR Enterprises, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, George Todaro, and Bluegrass Farms and is owned by Hollendorfer, Todaro, R. Dang, Mark DeDomenico LLC and E Zennedjian.

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