Two races after his juvenile half-sister Como Square sprang an upset at Oaklawn Park, comebacker Caddo River appeared to make it a double on the Sunday card for their dam, as well as for Shortleaf Stable, and a triple for trainer Brad Cox. But his unofficial win was short-lived, for a stewards’ inquiry and claim of foul resulted in a disqualification. The hampered runner-up, Atoka, was awarded the victory.
Caddo River was sent off as the 1-2 favorite in his first start since trailing in the June 5 Woody Stephens (G1). Previously runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (G1), the homebred was returning to the same one-mile distance of his 10 1/4-length rout of the Smarty Jones S. here in January.
Unlike the Smarty Jones, where Caddo River strode right to the lead from the outside post, he wasn’t quick into stride from the rail in Sunday’s $100,000 co-feature. Caddo River then over-raced, and regular rider Florent Geroux had to wrangle him lest he run up onto the heels of pacesetter Defender. As the favorite relented and eased back, he was soon flanked by the advancing Atoka who kept him pocketed.
After establishing fractions of :23.34 and :47.07 on the fast track, Defender was overtaken. Irish Unity put his head in front at the six-furlong split in 1:11.72, but held that spot only briefly as Highestdistinction wrested control. Atoka, traveling with greater alacrity than Caddo River turning for home, rallied to mow down the leaders in the stretch.
Finally, Geroux managed to galvanize Caddo River. Still four lengths down entering the final furlong, the Hard Spun colt showed that he could kick on from off the pace, a dimension he hadn’t had before. But his forward progress came at a price. Caddo River suddenly lugged in as he came up to Atoka, bumping that rival so soundly that he knocked Atoka’s headquarters sideways. Atoka consequently lost momentum in the decisive final yards, and Caddo River thrust his neck in front in 1:38.28.
The inquiry sign flashed, and Atoka’s jockey, Luis Contreras, lodged an objection for interference. Given the timing, and degree, of contact, the stewards demoted Caddo River to second.
Atoka returned $13.20 as a 5.60-1 chance. Co-owned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his wife, Laurie, along with Jim Heird and Eleanor Green, the four-year-old colt broke his maiden and captured an entry-level allowance at Ellis Park this summer. Atoka next placed third as a 40-1 longshot in the Ack Ack (G3), and he was most recently sixth in the Nov. 6 Bet on Sunshine back at Churchill Downs. The son of Union Rags sports a mark of 18-3-2-4, $232,748.
Ironically, Cox’s other beaten favorite on the card, Marr Time, trailed home behind stablemate Como Square in the co-featured allowance for two-year-old fillies. Marr Time was the 4-5 choice, partly on account of her debut score at Keeneland, but primarily because of her potential to become the next celebrity out of Leslie’s Lady. As a daughter of that Broodmare of the Year, Marr Time is a half-sister to Beholder, Mendelssohn, and Into Mischief. Like them, she is by a Storm Cat-line stallion, in her case Not This Time.
Favorite backers had cause for concern when Marr Time was fractious in the gate, then got embroiled in between rivals in a pace duel through :22.22 and :46.15. As she began to beat a retreat on the far turn, Shortleaf’s homebred Como Square – by Into Mischief – was in the midst of a powerful, sustained rally from well back. Under Martin Garcia, the 9.60-1 chance rolled to the lead in deep stretch and finished six furlongs in 1:11.76.
Torte closed well herself to place second, just three-quarters of a length back. Another 4 3/4 lengths astern came Holy Justice, with No Drama Momma along from last for fourth. Front-runner Lady Scarlet tired to fifth, her other pace foe Parlance was sixth, and Marr Time was considerately handled at the rear, checking in 11 1/4 lengths behind seventh-placer Tone It Up.
Como Square is now 2-for-2, having broken her maiden in similarly swashbuckling style at Indiana Grand, with $80,400 in earnings. She is the third foal, and winner, produced by Grade 2-placed stakes victress Pangburn, by Congrats.