Tres Touche now has a firm date with the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.
That was guaranteed yesterday when the 5-year-old gelding found some additional energy in the late running and scored a two-length victory over Pelagos in the $30,000 Legacy Chase, the feature on the second fall program at Shawan Downs.
A crowd estimated at more than 10,000 watched Tres Touche benefit from a ground-saving trip under jockey David Bentley to continue a consistent - if taxing - year in which he has finished in the top three five times in six outings.
"Yes, we're going to the Breeders' Cup in three weeks," trainer Ricky Hendriks said. "I was a little scared about the soft turf, but Dave gave him such a great trip right around the inside. I don't think this horse has ever been better."
The Breeders' Cup will be run Oct. 19 in Far Hills, N.J. The defending champion, Quel Senor, was scratched from the Legacy after a dull spring campaign, and the 2000 Breeders' Cup winner, All Gong, never seriously challenged yesterday.
Early on, the Legacy developed into a battle for the lead between Anofferucantrefuse and the returning champion, Darn Tipalarm, but both faded and finished far behind.
"I think he likes that uphill finish at Far Hills," Bentley said of Tres Touche. "He came into this off some tough races at Saratoga and was meeting fresh horses. I was a little concerned because he got a little tired near the end, but he found some more."
Tres Touche competes in the colors of Contrarian Stable, with Malcolm Comer, a professor at the University of Maryland, as the principal owner among eight partners. He is stabled in Hendriks' barn at Fair Hill.
"The footing was a little bit heavy, but he kept digging in and that's characteristic," said Comer, who bought he and his dam, Princess Smoggy, for $5,200.
Said Hendriks: "There was a lot of speed in this race. We knew Tommy's [Voss] horse was going to go to the lead with [Jack] Fisher's right there, so we tried to rate. I was a little scared about the soft ground and I would have been happy with second coming around the last turn. But he got there."
It was a festive day conducted in perfect weather, but there were some glitches.
In the secondary feature, the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Timber Stakes, the first four finishers were disqualified for cutting a beacon that was placed specifically so runners would avoid an irrigation ditch.
Maipo, who trains over the course, originally finished first, followed by Virginia Gold Cup winner Make Me A Champ, Maryland Hunt Cup winner Young Dubliner and Keep It A Secret.
After a stewards' inquiry and subsequent race review, Sovereign Storm, who finished fifth, was placed first, and Little Starvin Marvin, who was sixth, got the place position.
There also was a disqualification in the maiden timber race, with Hyrah being placed ahead of first-time jumper Blackchesters.
Voss trainees won twice with Cyril Murphy aboard to increase the trainer's leading National Steeplechase Association victory total to 21 - nine in front of his closest competitors.
Bentley's win on Tres Touche tied him with Gus Brown for the jockey lead with 12 apiece.