Empire Builder swept around the field on the final turn, avoiding some heavy bumping on the inside, and held on to beat Csaba by a half length in Saturday’s $55,000 Mambo Meister Stakes.
Musical Flair crossed the finish line third, another five lengths behind, in the one mile dirt race for 3-year-olds at Calder Casino & Race Course.
But the stewards disqualified the 3-10 favorite Csaba for interference with Musical Flair near the rail on the turn.
They reversed the order of those two horses, making the 10-1 Musical Flair the official second-place finisher in the six-horse field.
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Empire Builder, at 7-1, was ridden by Jonathan Gonazles and won in 1:39.04 in a race that was scheduled for turf. Calder moved it to dirt because the turf course remained soggy following last week’s rain.
The victory was the third in nine starts and first in a stakes for Empire Builder, who is owned and trained by Luis Duco.
Empire Builder had one third-place finish and two sixth-place finishes in stakes with strong fields this year at Gulfstream Park and Calder.
“I knew he would improve as he kept maturing, and he showed that [Saturday],” Duco said.
The narrow loss and then the disqualification of Csaba closed out an emotional day for Phil Gleaves, the trainer of that horse.
“When I saw the replay it was obvious to me that my horse interfered with the other horse [Musical Flair],” Gleaves said. “I feel that the stewards made the right decision in taking him down [disqualification].”
Gleaves trained Mambo Meister, a horse that won nine stakes at Calder between 2008 and last year.
Mambo Meister was euthanized by lethal injection on April 9, after he fractured a leg while training at Calder.
Mambo Meister was owned by Quantum Racing Team, whose partners live in South Florida.
They presented the trophy to Duco, following the race in which his horse showed his talent and Gonzales steered him out of trouble.
Csaba was coming off a 5 3/4-length win over Empire Builder in a one-mile Calder dirt allowance on May 12 and had finished one place ahead of Empire Builder in two stakes.
A decision to settle near the back in a race with an expected fast pace helped make a difference in the Mambo Meister, Duco said.
Two is to Many, at 41-1, led after a half mile in 46.99 seconds. Miami Cat, also trained by Gleaves, was second — followed by Musical Flair, Csaba and Empire Builder.
Musical Flair was near the rail and was forced back to last when Csaba cut him off while trying to pass on the turn.
By mid-stretch, Empire Builder had a four-length lead over Csaba, who was avoiding a tiring Two is to Many. Csaba then resumed his rally but could not catch Empire Builder.
Duco said he had hoped the Mambo Meister would stay on the turf.
“[Empire Builder] is good on either surface, but I think his best future is turf,” he said.
Empire Builder is a son of Kitten’s Joy, the winner of the 2004 Eclipse Award as Champion Turf Horse.
Calder will have nine races on Sunday, with no stakes.
Monday is usually a dark day at Calder.
But on Memorial Day it will have a nine-race program, headed by the $75,000 Memorial Day Handicap.
That stakes will be 1 1/16 miles on dirt for 3-year-olds and up. Imperial Czar and Cash Rules, two recent Calder stakes winners, are part of an eight-horse field.
First post time is 12:55 p.m. each day.