09/28/2014 7:57PM

Tonito M. captures Oklahoma Derby for ailing owner

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 OKLAHOMA CITY - Owner Mickey Gonzalez defied doctor’s orders on Sunday when he traveled from Puerto Rico to be at Remington Park to watch his horse  Tonito M. run in the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby.

It was so worth it.

Tonito M. rallied four-wide on the final turn and ran down the leaders for a 2 3/4-quarter length win over Bay of Biscay in the 1 1/8-mile race that led a program of seven stakes worth $1 million. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back in third to even-money favorite Wildcat Red.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said in a few days he is to have surgery on a carotid artery. His left side has a 100 percent blockage, he said in a post-race interview .

Tonito M., ($12.80) was the best kind of medicine in the Oklahoma Derby. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained horse sat several lengths off the pace set by Louies Flower, who took the field through fractions of 23.20 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.49 for the half-mile. Tonito M., raced along the rail down the backstretch, advanced four wide on the final turn and overtook leader Bay of Biscay with a diligent rally. The winner covered the distance on a track rated fast in 1:50.41.

“I had a very good trip,” Bejarano said. “The horse broke very good. By the half-mile, I felt like I still had [a lot of] horse. Coming into the stretch, it was on.

“I think this horse is going to improve a lot.”

Gonzalez said Tonito M.  is Breeders’ Cup eligible but a decision on his next start will be made by Hollendorfer.

Gonzalez purchased Tonito M., who started his career in Puerto Rico, privately from a friend and sent him to Hollendorfer in March. Tonito M., had had a stellar run in Puerto Rico, dominating a Group 1 in December and earning championships there, according to Gonzalez. The owner had hoped the horse would make a run at the Kentucky Derby.

But Tonito M., was tied up in quarantine for about three weeks this spring, and the timing of making preps like the planned Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Louisiana Derby, or Arkansas Derby would have been a stressful push, said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said Hollendorfer advised him the horse was not ready for such preps and to wait on him. The decision paid dividends with Tonito M., starting to come to hand this fall, having run third against older horses in the Los Alamitos Mile one start prior to his Oklahoma Derby.

Tonito M., who is a son of Rock Hard Ten, earned $240,000 for the win, his seventh from 13 starts. He was bred in Kentucky by Hilbert Thoroughbreds Inc., and Menard Thoroughbreds.