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THE PIZZA MAN VICTORIOUS IN GRADE III STARS AND STRIPES

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/12/2014 #
  • The Pizza Man was a gate-to-wire win in the Grade III Stars and Stripes (Four Footed Fotos)

Midwest Thoroughbreds' The Pizza Man survived an early misstep and a rider's claim of foul to capture the Grade III $150,000 Stars and Stripes at Arlington International Racecourse.

Trained by Roger Brueggemann, the 5-year-old Illinois-bred son of English Channel led at every call and held off the bid of O'Prado Ole, who pressed throughout, to win by a half-length as the $1.80-1 second choice.

Following the race, jockey Channing Hill, who rode the runner-up, claimed foul against the winner, "alleging interference nearing the wire in first half mile and again in the stretch." Both claims were disallowed.

"There was a camera on the rail and my horse shied away from it," Geroux explained. "It wasn't my horse's fault or his horse's (Channing Hill on O'Prado Ole). I got him back straight and we were a mile away from the finish line, so I think his horse had plenty of time to recover."

Not known for his front-running prowess, The Pizza Man, who closed to finish third in last year's edition of the Stars and Stripes, set pedestrian fractions of 26.76 seconds, 53.89 seconds, 1:21.18 and 1:46.73 before stopping the timer in 2:33.67 for 1 ½ miles over a firm turf course.

"When you look at the race on paper, there wasn't much speed in the race," Geroux said. "I had the best horse in the race, so I took the lead and went with it. The plan was to get to wherever he was comfortable and he was comfortable on the lead. That's where I wanted to be and it worked out good."

It was the 11th win from 16 tries for The Pizza Man but his first in a graded stakes, increasing his career earnings to $499,803.

The third-place finisher in the 2012 edition of and second last year, $1.80-1 race favorite Suntracer hit the board in the Stars and Stripes for the third consecutive season. Covered up on the inside, he was forced to swing widest in the stretch, and his rally fell just three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

"When they go 53 (seconds to the opening half-mile), you're a victim of the race," jockey Julien Leparoux said of Suntracer. "I got a good trip. I saved ground and was covered up, but had to wait, wait, wait to get in the clear. Once I did (get clear), he finished very strong, just too late. He is a relaxed and quiet horse and he always finishes. Tough racing luck today."

The Pizza Man returned $5.60, $3.60 and $2.40. O'Prado Ole paid $8.40 and $5.00. Suntracer paid $2.40 to show.

Moro Tap, Dreams Cut Short, Olympic Thunder, Seton Hall, Dad Are We Here and Bubba's Big Show completed the order of finish.

The Stars and Stripes served as the final local prep for the running of the $400,000 American St. Leger, which will be held Aug. 16. The 1-2-3 finishers in the Stars and Stripes will have their entry and starting fees waived for the American St. Leger should they elect to run in that event next month.