By John Manzi
MONTICELLO Five years ago, Cactus Creek won the Adios Stakes and also copped a division of the Little Brown Jug and after his 1:55.1 victory here at Monticello Raceway on Aug. 23 of this year, the veteran Artisplace gelding is the primary candidate for local Horse of the Year honors.
Now owned by Reggie Duguay of Winslow, Maine and trained by Jamie Gerard, Cactus Creek notched his fifth Monticello victory in 10 seasonal starts here when Jordan Stratton guided him to a romping five-length triumph in the weekly winners-over pacing feature over Ahead Of The Curve, who was driven by Kyle DiBenedetto.
“We’d have started him more than 10 times here, but when he wins so convincingly the race doesn’t seem to fill the following week so we have to go out of town to find a race,” Gerard explained.
In spite of the pacer’s prowess here at the Mighty M, Cactus Creek was dismissed by the betting public and sent off at odds of over 5-2 and returned a $7.30 win mutuel.
Stratton knew he had the best horse in the race and gunned Cactus Creek to the lead from the six-hole. They passed the quarter in 29 seconds and got to the half in a soft 59 seconds and without any challenges. Up the backside, Stratton aired-out his pacer and Cactus Creek punched in a 27.3-second third panel to open up a five- length lead and from there only the margin of victory was in doubt.
“I was swinging on him through the stretch and if I turned him loose, he might have shaded 1:54,” Stratton said after his winning drive. “He loves this track and Jamie [Gerard the trainer]had him in top form.”
With his victory, Cactus Creek’s seasonal bankroll stands at $44,645 on the strength of six wins in 23 starts.
Of course, his sophomore season was the pacer’s best. That year Cactus Creek earned $330,461 and took a mark of 1:50 at the Meadows.
In 2007, Cactus Creek changed residence and since then he’s been more than just a useful horse. Since Duguay purchased him back in February 2009, Cactus Creek has won more than $150,000 for him and his connections.