Updated on 09/17/2011 9:58PM

Sterling Gold wins Don Bernhardt

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Ellis Park
Sterling Gold wins the $75,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes at Ellis Park on Saturday.

When owner Bill Hays claimed Sterling Gold for $100,000 at Keeneland in October, he likely envisioned the horse becoming a top stakes performer. It just took him a while to get there.

Sterling Gold won his first stakes race Saturday, winning the $75,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes at Ellis Park in his ninth start after being claimed, beating graded stakes winners Fire Slam, Private Horde and Level Playingfield.

Sterling Gold's chances improved at the start when favored Coach Jimi Lee, unseating his rider, Craig Perret. In the favorite's absence, the winner's stablemate, Korbyn Gold, cruised to a clear early lead with an opening quarter mile in 22.49 seconds.

As Private Horde engaged Korbyn Gold entering the turn and poked his head in front with a half-mile in 45.65 seconds, Sterling Gold began to rapidly advance on the leaders with a wide rally. He passed them easily in the stretch, and maintained a steady advantage in the stretch.

He crossed the wire 2.25 lengths in front of the late-running Level Playingfield, who edged Private Horde by three quarters of a length for the place. Premier Performer, Korbyn Gold, Fire Slam and the riderless Coach Jimi Lee completed the order of finish.

Sterling Gold, a 6-year-old son of Mutakddim trained by Joe Woodard and ridden by Rodney Prescott, paid $11.40 as part of an entry with Korbyn Gold. He raced 6.5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.29.