Laoban's gallant 3-year-old colt The King Cheek fought off a stiff challenge by heavy favorite Hozier to win Saturday's $100,000 Sir Barton S. by a head.
The bay sophomore is Laoban's fifth black type winner from his first crop of runners. Laoban, who is standing his first season at WinStar Farm this year, is in the top five on the Second-Crop Sire list with over $1 million in progeny earnings to date.
Stretching out to two turns for the first time in his career, The King Cheek was eager to go at the break and went to the lead from his inside post. He led the field through a reasonable half-mile in :47.67 with a one-length lead.
Entering the far turn, Hozier slipped through the inside and took the lead by as much as a half-length before The King Cheek battled back to even terms at the top of the stretch. The duo was side-by-side the rest of the way until the final strides, when The King Cheek found more, winning in 1:42.81 for the 1 1/16-miles on a fast track.
“The favorite came up inside us, it looked like, uh-oh,” said winning trainer Jaime Ness. “But he re-engaged and it was a hard-fought battle right to the wire, and luckily we got in front. I always thought he was a two-turn horse.”
The King Cheek is owned by Morris Kernan, Jr. and Jagger Inc. He improved his record to 4-2-0 in nine outings, with earnings of $132,575.
The winner was bred by Pucker Ridge Farm LLC.