ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2015)–With fast fractions to run at, trainer Mark Casse’s Conquest Two Step flew through the stretch to win Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths under a high-riding Joe Talamo who registered his third win on the card. With favored Distinctiv Passion carving out fractions of 21.21, 43.54 and 55.61, Conquest Two Step was fourth, approximately eight lengths off the lead with three furlongs to run and he stopped the clock at 1:08.10 for six furlongs.
“I was very happy to see three horses (Distinctiv Passion, Big Macher and Secret Circle) in a speed duel,” said Talamo. “I just stayed outside and he wasn’t even getting any dirt in his face. What a race he ran. We were high on his last race, when he ran second to Shared Belief (in the Grade I, seven furlong Malibu, Dec. 26) and I know a lot of people thought that was a fluke, but he really ran that same race again today.”
Off at 5-1 in a field six older older horses, Conquest Two Step paid $13.00, $5.40 and $3.20. Owned by Conquest Stables, LLC, he improved his overall record to 10-3-5-1 and with the winner’s share of $120,000, increased his earnings to $309,408.
“They set it up nice for him,” said Casse. “I was smiling pretty big down the backside watching those three go at it. I thought he was a big price based on his last effort, but I understand everybody likes to see two in a row.”
A winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Bob Baffert’s Secret Circle, who ran a disappointing fourth in the Grade III, 6 ½ furlong Midnight Lute Stakes, added blinkers and ran a much improved race under Martin Garcia as he pressed the pace, made the lead at the quarter pole and finished 2 ¼ lengths clear of Wild Dude.
The second choice at 2-1, Secret Circle paid $4.00 and $3.00.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Wild Dude was off at 3-1 and rallied from off the pace for third money, paying $3.00 to show.
Distinctiv Passion, who broke from the rail and was the 2-1 favorite with Mike Smith, tired to finish fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind Wild Dude. Big Macher, overlayed at 6-1 off a morning line of 5-2, checked in fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind Distinctiv Passion.
Fractions on the race were 21.21, 43.54 and 55.61.