01/17/2015 6:06PM

String King gets first graded stakes win in Col. Bradley

Lou Hodges Jr.
String King, with James Graham aboard, takes the Grade 3 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana-bred gelding String King had come close to winning graded races a few times in his long, lucrative career, but in the Grade 3 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds, he got the job done.

And trainer/owner/breeder Charles Smith couldn't be prouder.

"He's as tenacious as any horse you'll ever want to meet,'' Smith said.

Said winning rider James Graham: "He's cool. He's a cool, old horse.''

After stalking pacesetter Gentleman's Kitten most of the way, String King pushed to the lead in the final furlong and won the $125,000 turf race for 4-year-olds and up by 1 1/4 lengths. Gentleman's Kitten held off the late-running Highball by a nose for second in a field of nine.

"He was happy,” Graham said. “Charlie told me he was happy. I listened to Charlie.''

At the start, Mike Smith quickly put Gentleman's Kitten on the lead, and he set a solid pace. He ran the first quarter-mile on a good course in 24.17 seconds, the half in 48.08, and six furlongs in 1:12.38. At that point, String King had moved to about a length behind and was surging toward the lead.

In the stretch, he kicked away, completing the about 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.42. He paid $8.20.

The win, String King's 15th in 34 starts, was his 10th stakes victory. As Smith proudly pointed out, the gelding has won stakes at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and now 7. String King has earned $818,552.

The next race for String King, Smith said, might the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap here on March 28. Smith said he's considering skipping the next local turf stakes for older horses – the Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 21 – and freshening String King for the Muniz.

"James said, 'If you skip the next one, he'll win the Muniz,’ '' Smith said.

If String King could talk, he probably wouldn't disagree.