Big John B saves ground and outstays Cougar II rivals

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

July 25th, 2015

Big John B saved all the ground and outstayed four rivals Friday in the $100,000 Cougar II H. (G3) at Del Mar.

Conceding the freewheeling second choice Cat Burglar more than a dozen lengths during the front half of the 12-furlong fixture, Big John B advanced into contention approaching the far turn for the second time and was kept along the rail by jockey Rafael Bejarano.

As the field reached the quarter pole 13-10 favorite Sky Kingdom, second in the Cougar II the previous two years, had taken a narrow advantage while racing wide. However, the public choice appeared visibly tired and was under urging while Big John B was moving more easily along the inside.

The eventual winner soon took over, opened up a one-length advantage with a furlong to go, and held off a mild bid from 12-1 shot Bailoutbobby to score by a half-length in a time of 2:31.62 over a fast track.

Big John B entered the Cougar II with plenty of stamina in evidence on his record. The six-year-old Hard Spun gelding was a commanding winner of the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar H. (G2) on turf last summer, and later placed third in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita.

A narrow winner of a 10-furlong starter handicap on turf at Santa Anita in his June 28 prep, Big John B was sent off as the 3-1 third choice in the Cougar II, largely due to being unplaced in three previous attempts on dirt. A title defense in the August 22 Del Mar H. might be next, although Phil D'Amato, who trains Big John B for Michael House, didn't completely rule out a stab at the Pacific Classic (G1) the same day going 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

Sky Kingdom, who tracked in second behind stablemate Cat Burglar before assuming the lead, perhaps hit the front sooner than was ideal. However, the son of Empire Maker has somewhat erratic form in these long-distance races. He's dominated the last two editions of the Tokyo City Cup (G3), held in March, but has fallen short at other times.

Bailoutbobby, second to Sky Kingdom in the most recent edition of the Tokyo City Cup, clearly enjoyed the drop in class after trailing in the Californian (G2). He remains eligible for his second allowance condition.

(Big John B photo: Benoit Photo)