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Thor's Echo Holds Off Diabolical In Bid to Become Top Sprinter
Thor's Echo finally took control with a sixteenth of a mile to go as Diabolical steadily cut into his lead and just missed at the wire.
"What a great race," Pino said afterward. "I thought I had him. [Diabolical] charged at him, but that other horse just kept digging in. We were running; I just couldn't get by the winner."
O'Neill gave much of the credit to Nakatani, who timed his move perfectly.
"Having a guy like Corey, he's got ice in his veins in this kind of race," O'Neill said. "He sensed they were going quick. He knew where he was, and he was happy where he was. [Diabolical] was really coming and charging and Corey got him close and then tried to stop that momentum. I thought he did a great job with that."
"I'll tell you what," Nakatani said in the winner's circle. "He's a champion."
The De Francis highlighted a Laurel Fall Festival of Racing card that included seven other stakes races, six worth at least $100,000.
In the historic Laurel Futurity, New Jersey-based Strike a Deal overhauled leader Rutledge Cat deep in the stretch to win the 1 1/16 -mile turf race by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:45.94 under jockey Ramon Dominguez.
The race for 2-year-olds, which dates to 1921, has been won in the past by champions such as Citation, Secretariat, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid. Barbaro used it as a springboard last year toward an eventual victory in the Kentucky Derby, but Strike a Deal is likely to remain a turf runner with the long-term goal of the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs next year, according to Jim Maloney, assistant to trainer Alan Goldberg.
"Earlier in the year, he breezed against a couple of our better older horses on the turf and they really had a hard time getting by him," Maloney said. "We always felt he had a lot of turf ability."
In the Selima Stakes, the companion race for 2-year-old fillies, heavy favorite Streets Sounds, trained by Michael Matz, dominated 10 other runners to win by 3 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:46.35.
Racing Note: The $5,518,830 bet on the card set a record for a De Francis Dash card.