"He's one of those special horses who when you put them in the starting gate, you're know they'll find a way to get to the wire first."
That's how trainer Kiaran McLaughlin described Justenuffhumor, who continued his climb towards the top of the nation's turf division with a well-deserved half-length victory over a game Cowboy Cal in Friday's $200,000 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga.
Justenuffhumor rallied from more than a dozen lengths off the pace to add the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch to an even easier victory in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap earlier in the meet. A 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor, Justenuffhumor has won all six of his starts since McLaughlin switched him to the turf after finishing far back in his career debut at Keeneland during the fall of 2008.
As has been the case in each of his previous five grass wins, Justenuffhumor settled well off the early pace which was set by Cowboy Cal and forced by Seaspeak. Under patient handling by regular rider Alan Garcia, Justenuffhumor began to advance upon leaving the backstretch, then swung six wide while continuing his bid into the stretch before running down the leader inside the sixteenth pole.
Cowboy Cal, a Todd Pletcher trainee who finished third after also setting the pace in the Fourstardave, held on gamely despite setting a relatively fast pace over a firm inner turf course. He finished another 2 3/4 lengths in front of Sette E Mezzo, who was followed in turn by Seaspeak, Mambo Meister, Interpatation, Colony, Deal Making, Yate's Black Cat, and Kutais.
Justenuffhumor, who is owned by the Darley Stable, covered the 1 1/8 miles in $1:47.38 seconds and paid $3.80. He was coupled in the wagering along with Colony.
"I was a little nervous when Tom Durkin called him a dozen lengths off the lead down the backstretch," said McLaughlin. "He was a little wide but he put in a big run. The second horse ran great. I hate to beat Todd, because we're good buddies, but that's what this game is all about."
Justenuffhumor has had a history of gate issues, but was much better behaved before the start of the Bernard Baruch than in past races.
"The gate has really been our only concern at times but the gate crew has done a great job with him," said McLaughlin. "Alan had to step off him once, but he got right back on and he was all right after that. He was less of a knucklehead today. But he's still a knucklehead."
McLaighlin said he has no future plans for Justenuffhumor at this time.
"This was the race we were pointing for," said McLaughlin. "We'll have to go back and talk before deciding what will be next."