Baby Gronk, a 9-1 shot, edged 5-2 second choice Joe Don Looney to win the $49,500 feature Friday, opening day of the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Los Alamitos.
Less than two weeks after an easy win under the lights, the 6-year-old Roi Charmant gelding handled the extra yardage and tougher company with an off the pace score under jockey Francisco Orduna-Rojas.
Owned and trained by Brian Cunningham, Baby Gronk, who is out of the Decarchy mare Bee Eff Eff, completed the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.90. He defeated Joe Don Looney, who was coming off a victory vs. $25,000 claimers Aug. 12 at Del Mar, by a neck.
It was the first victory over the daytime oval for Baby Gronk, who had finished second in his two previous attempts, the latest when defeated three lengths by Eskimo Roses in an $8,000 claimer July 5 during the Summer Thoroughbred Festival.
His $29,400 payday pushed his earnings to $134,596 in 27 starts and Baby Gronk returned $20.40, $8 and $5.80.
Joe Don Looney, who had a one-length lead with an eighth of a mile to run after disposing of 4-5 favorite Silver Claim, paid $4.20 and $3.80 while finishing five lengths in front of 4-1 shot Tribal War Chant. The show price on Tribal War Chant was $4.20.
Silver Claim, who had won five consecutive starts prior to Friday over a span of more than 16 months, Silverwind and Count Tolstoy completed the order of finish.
In the first race of the meet, 1-2 favorite Paint Me Lucky led throughout to win his second in a row for jockey Abel Cedillo and owner Dianne Bashor. The 3 ½-length score was the 100th daytime thoroughbred win at Los Alamitos for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Both Cedillo and Edwin Maldonado doubled Friday. Cedillo’s other win came with Red Valor, who earned his fourth in a row in the fourth, while Maldonado won the sixth with Double Fantasy and the eighth with Bold Voyager.
Racing resumes Saturday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 1 p.m.