03/07/2015 8:04PM

Wild Dude shifts strategies to win San Carlos

Benoit Photo
Wild Dude wins the San Carlos Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Wild Dude was in an odd place in the first half of Saturday’s $250,500 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita. Instead of racing at the back of the field, waiting to make his customary rally, Wild Dude was near the front.

In this case, change was good.

Wild Dude ($5.80) held off a late threat from Kobe’s Back to win the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes and end a three-race losing streak dating to the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes here in February 2014.

The style of the win surprised winning rider Rafael Bejarano and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Wild Dude ran seven furlongs in 1:21.91.

“I didn’t think he would be that close,” Hollendorfer said. “I’m glad Rafael went on with it. It seemed like he had a lot left.”

Wild Dude was second and then third on the backstretch, racing within a half-length of early leader El Nino Terrible, who set early fractions of 23.26 seconds for a quarter-mile and 46.11 for a half-mile. Wild Dude took the lead on the turn and was pressured through the stretch.

Conquest Two Step, the 4-5 favorite, was within a half-length of the lead with a furlong remaining before Kobe’s Back rallied wide to reach contention. Kobe’s Back got within three-quarters of a length of Wild Dude at the finish. Kobe’s Back finished three-quarters of a length in front of Conquest Two Step, who was followed by Outside Nashville, Majestic City, Blues Blaster, and El Nino Terrible.

Bejarano has been the regular rider of Wild Dude for most of the 5-year-old horse’s career and thought his mount could adapt to different tactics.

“I was very confident,” Bejarano said. “When I felt the pressure at the three-eighths pole, he showed me a big kick.”

Wild Dude races for Hollendorfer and Green Smith Jr. By Wildcat Heir, Wild Dude has won 5 of 12 starts and earned $494,220. He was third in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 31 in his first start since a nose loss in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes here last April.

Wild Dude was the 3-5 favorite in the Los Angeles Handicap here last May but was withdrawn in the post parade after jockey Mike Smith said he did not warm up well. Hollendorfer said that was the excuse needed to give Wild Dude a break.

“We decided to give him a long time off,” he said. “This was the result.”