Formerly an underachiever on dirt, C R K Stable’s Exaulted has become an overachiever since switching to turf. His transformation reached a new level in Monday’s $503,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. By defeating this circuit’s mainstays, the Peter Eurton pupil extended his turf record to 4-0 and earned a free spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) over the same course.
The surface switch coincided with a rider change to Juan Hernandez, who has also managed to place Exaulted in the right spot and deliver well-timed moves. The Shoemaker was another case study, as the 3.10-1 second choice got the decisive jump on 8-5 favorite Hong Kong Harry.
It helps that Exaulted can stay in range of a swift pace and kick on home. The son of Twirling Candy was able to perch in third early, nearer than all of the other principals, behind a pair of longshots. After Lamplighter Jack reeled off splits of :22.88 and :46.10, he was collared by the chasing Flavius through six furlongs in 1:10.09. But Flavius was soon spent himself.
Exaulted crept closer and pounced at the top of the stretch. The 41-1 Irideo, who was runner-up to Exaulted in the April 2 American (G3), again rounded out the exacta in the rematch. Maneuvering artfully with Hector Berrios from far back in the pack, Irideo reduced the gap to a half-length at the wire.
Hong Kong Harry, also switched off in the early going, took longer to deploy on the overland route. His furious charge was too late, resulting in a third another length back. Il Bellator ran an even fourth to conclude the superfecta at 68-1. Next came Cabo Spirit, Du Jour, Gold Phoenix, Balnikhov, slow-starting European import Salesman, Flavius, and Lamplighter Jack.
Exaulted negotiated the mile in 1:34.08, boosting his bankroll to $603,660 from his 15-5-3-4 line. The bay had shown promise at the beginning of a stop-start career on the main track. Runner-up to Nadal in their mutual debut in January 2020, Exaulted eventually opened his account by beating American Theorem. But he was sidelined after thirds in the 2021 San Carlos (G2) and Triple Bend (G2), and his losing skid continued throughout his comeback season in 2022.
Then Eurton decided to try turf in 2023, and thus began Exaulted’s dramatic turnaround at the age of six. Promptly winning a pair of allowances to start the year, he’s continued to enjoy life on the lawn versus better rivals in the American and Shoemaker Mile.
“This horse has been improving every race,” Hernandez observed. “He is always in a good position. He broke really sharp today and I took him back. At the three-eighths, I asked him to pick it up and it was time to go. I passed a horse to get the lead and he didn’t let other horses pass him. Peter Eurton has done a really good job with this horse. This horse really loves the turf, so maybe the turf has been the difference.”
Unless connections want to venture further afield, Exaulted has the luxury of staying home through the Breeders’ Cup.
“I’ve never done any good anywhere else, so I’m glad it’s here,” Eurton self-deprecatingly said.
“(Eurton) looks like a genius,” C R K Stable’s Lee Searing said. “To take the horse off the dirt and put him on the grass and win four in a row.”
Bred by Jack Swain III in Kentucky, Exaulted sold for $77,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, but his price increased to $200,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. He is out of the Gilded Time mare Gilded Miracle, who is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Wonderlandbynight, from the extended family of 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hero Aloha West and multiple Grade 1-winning sire Ogygian.
Searing and Eurton commented on what it means to win the race honoring the late Hall of Fame rider.
“I’m feeling awful good, winning the Shoemaker Mile is pretty fun,” Searing said. “You talk about this race, the Gamely (G1), the Santa Anita H. (G1), the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), you’re talking about races I’d love to win.”
“I’m just so happy, so pleased to do it for (Searing),” the trainer said. “This is the kind of race you want to win ever since you’re a kid. I knew Bill (Shoemaker), we played golf with my father-in-law. Those two things together make it a great day.”