05/31/2010 11:00PM

Victor's Cry does better than expected in stretch


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Eoin Harty's faith in Victor's Cry improved rapidly through the stretch of Monday's Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.

As Victor's Cry closed from off the pace, Harty's hopes went from a placing to the grand prize.

"When they turned for home, I would have been happy to run third," he said. "I saw the front-runners struggling and I thought, second. Then I saw them really struggling and I thought I could win."

Victor's Cry, dismissed at 21-1, rallied from sixth in the final quarter-mile to edge 9-5 favorite Karelian by a head in the one-mile grass race. It was quite an occasion, a $250,000 race, for Victor's Cry to win his first stakes in his 17th start.

Going into the race, Harty said he thought if the pace was quick that Victor's Cry could play a factor in the stretch. The trainer got his wish. Pacesetter Mr Gruff, who eventually finished third, ran the first six furlongs in 1:09.20 after setting early fractions of 23.08 and 46.05 seconds.

"The opening quarter was easy enough, but they really picked it up," Harty said.

Victor's Cry races for Bob and Michele Billings's Equilete Stable. A 5-year-old horse, Victor's Cry made his fifth appearance in a stakes in the Shoemaker Mile. He was unplaced in two Grade 2 turf races over a mile last year, but was second to Mr Gruff in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita last month.

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who left his native California last year and now rides in Kentucky, rode Victor's Cry in the San Simeon, and was back in California for the Shoemaker Mile. After the Shoemaker Mile, he did not rule out a return to California later this year, if he could gain support from a major stable.

At the least, Nakatani will not be far from Victor's Cry. The way that Victor's Cry closed from seventh to finish second in the San Simeon gave Harty confidence to try the Shoemaker Mile. The next goal may be the $150,000 American Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on July 4, a distance that Harty said may test Victor's Cry.

"He might get a mile and an eighth," he said. "It could be a stretch."

A longer race will be a gamble worth taking, just like the Shoemaker.