The horse's name is Herat, but trainer Ross Fenstermaker calls him "Herrabbit."
After Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, Fenstermaker probably had more that just a catch word for Herat. The pint-sized son of Northern Dancer forced Fenstermaker's heavily favored Precisionist to run extra hard through the first mile of the 1-mile race, then some patented derring-do by jockey Laffit Pincay through the stretch left both of those horses in his dust, giving Super Diamond, the 6-year-old California-bred gelding, a 1 1/2-length victory before a crowd of 39,150 at Hollywood Park.
Precisionist, who went into the race with 13 stakes wins, $2.2 million in purses and last year's Eclipse Award as champion sprinter, was unable to even hang on for second. Alphabatim, who trailed in the six-horse field after getting knocked around just out of the gate, rallied for second, out finishing Precisionist by a half-length. Herat finished fourth, six lengths behind Precisionist, and after him came Hopeful Word and Hatim.
The third choice in the betting, Super Diamond paid $7.80, $3.40 and $2.40, earning $275,000 for his breeders and owners, Roland and Ramona Sahm of Rancho Santa Fe. Super Diamond, who had finished a half-length behind Precisionist in the Californian and won the Bel Air Handicap in his last two starts, ran the distance in 2:00 2/5, one of the slower winning times in the Gold Cup, and increased his career earnings to $768,000.
Alphabatim paid $3.20 and $2.20 and Precisionist, who went off at 9-10, returned $2.40.
Before the Gold Cup, Fenstermaker treated Herat's presence like a fly in his soup; Eddie Gregson, Super Diamond's trainer, looked at Herat as icing on the cake.
"You really don't think a horse like Herat can beat you," Fenstermaker said. "But he's a menace in your hair."
Both in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2 and in the Californian on June 1, Herat's early speed had tested Precisionist early. Precisionist faded to sixth as the favorite in the Big 'Cap, with Herat lasting for second behind Greinton at 157-1.
Precisionist was able to shake off Herat in the Californian and win a spirited stretch drive with Super Diamond, but that was only a mile race. The Gold Cup marked the fifth time in eight career starts that Precisionist was unable to win at 1 miles.
"We needed Herat to stick around, to keep Precisionist working," Gregson said after the Gold Cup. "And that's what he did."
Going down the backstretch, Herat, the long shot in the field at 19-1, ran the first half-mile in :45 4/5, with Precisionist not far back. Super Diamond headed the four-horse contingent that formed a second tier behind the leaders.
On the far turn, Precisionist started passing Herat, but Super Diamond was also leaving his quartet and the pace was still quick, 1:09 1/5 for six furlongs and 1:34 3/5 at the quarter pole.
Herat, on the rail, began to tire at the top of the stretch and Pincay had to make a choice with Super Diamond, either trying to pass Precisionist on the outside or attempting to go between the favorite and Herat.
"I've tried to beat Precisionist by going around him before, and wasn't able to do it," Pincay told Gregson after the race. "So this time I tried to get through."
Pincay downplayed the tightness of the hole between Precisionist and Herat at the eighth pole, but it was a squeeze and Gregson himself was worried.
"When I saw Laffit trying to come through, I was very concerned," Gregson said. "For one thing, Super Diamond is not a horse that takes to guiding very well."
If there's a jockey in the country who can push a horse through a keyhole, it's Pincay. Exhibit A: the 1983 Belmont Stakes with Caveat, who cut the corner close at the top of the stretch, even though several horses on the outside were trying to put him and Pincay into the infield.
"Laffit got Super Diamond through," Gregson said. "He's something. With that ankle he hurt a few weeks ago, he was limping when he got off the horse."
When Gregson saw the :45.4 on the tote board, "I just loved it," he said. "I think Herat messed up Chris' sense of pace."
Chris McCarron, aboard Precisionist, was trying to win the Gold Cup for the first time after five seconds, four of them in the last four years.
"My horse just got outrun," McCarron said. "The other horse is going so good now, and what was it? Nine pounds we were giving him."
Precisionist, who was McCarron's second-place finisher in the Gold Cup last year, behind Greinton, had an impost of 127 pounds Sunday, nine more than Super Diamond and 13 more than Herat.
"The weight is part of it and the jack rabbit (another of the trainer's names for Herat) played a part, too," Fenstermaker said. "Thirteen pounds, that's a lot to give a sprinter. All I told Chris before the race was to let our horse run his race. When there's a speed horse in there pushing the pace, there's not much you can do about it."