Close it Out started his Calder Casino & Race Course season with an impressive win Saturday as he took the lead midway in the stretch and rolled to a 4 1/2-length victory over Black Diamond Cat in the $55,000 Champali Stakes.
Close it Out won the six-furlong dirt stakes in 1:11, a solid time at Calder, on a track listed as fast. He was the 3-5 favorite in an eight-horse field and was ridden by his regular jockey Manoel Cruz.
The win in the Champali is the first step on what trainer Steve Towne hopes will be a big year for Close It Out in sprint stakes at Calder.
“Our goal is the Smile,” Towne said following Saturday’s race. “If he comes out of this OK, we might also run in the Ponche.”
Both races are at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.
The $75,000 Ponche will be part of Calder’s Summit Preview day on June 8.
The $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap (Grade 2) is part of the annual Summit of Speed day on July 8.
Close It Out finished third in both races last year.
The competition will be tougher than in the Champali, and could include some South Florida sprinters that skipped Saturday’s race and some top sprinters that trainers will ship in from other states.
Close It Out has faced those kinds of fields at Calder and at Gulfstream Park.
In 12 races since last June Close it Out has finished third or better 10 times with two wins.
In his last race prior to Saturday he finished fourth in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (Grade 3) on Feb. 9.
Close It Out has a running style that fits his name — always rallying from near the back of the field.
On Saturday, he settled into sixth place near the rail.
Cajun Breeze led through the half mile in 44.77 seconds.
Close It Out then began moving past horses on the inside and won for the seventh time in 28 career starts.
Cajun Breeze held on to finish third, followed by County Gun.
Jackson Bend, who began his career at Calder in 2009 and went on to become a national sprint star, could be among Close It Out’s rivals in the Ponche and Smile.
In late April, Jackson Bend returned to the Calder stable with his original trainer Stan Gold.
Since 2010, owners Fred Brei, who lives in Ocala, and Bob La Penta, who lives in Connecticut, have shifted Jackson Bend several times between Gold and New York-based Nick Zito.
Brave Dave finished third and City of Weston finished fourth Saturday in the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico in Baltimore.
Calder is the home track for both horses, and both have won sprint stakes at Calder.
Zee Bros won the six-furlong Chick Lang by 2 1/4 lengths over Bobcat Jim who finished a neck ahead of Brave Dave. City of Weston was another 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth.
Zee Bros won in 1:10.72 and was ridden by Martin Garcia. He is trained by Bob Baffert.