By Tom LaMarra

Decorated Soldier became the latest former claimer to win a stakes when he ran down a runaway leader to take the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile at Presque Isle Downs & Casino the evening of Sept. 16.

The Mile was the fifth and final leg of the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division, which was won by the now-retired Page McKenney before the fourth leg of the division. It was the first start in the series for Decorated Soldier, who had been racing at Woodbine in Canada most of the summer.

Decorated Soldier won the Presque Isle Mile for his second consecutive stakes victory/Coady Photography

The 5-year-old gelding was claimed for $20,000 by trainer Norman McKnight on behalf of Racer’s Edge Inc. and Masix Stable at Oaklawn Park in mid-April. Since then, Decorated Soldier has won four of five races–all of them on the synthetic Tapeta surface–at Woodbine and now Presque Isle.

Don’t Be So Salty set a rapid pace and opened at least a five-length lead on the backstretch while Decorated Soldier bided his time in second under jockey Willie Martinez. Decorated Soldier gradually reeled in the leader, took over and then held off a fast-closing Ghost Hunter–second in the Presque Isle Mile last year–to win by three-quarters of a length.

Decorated Solder returned $7.20 to win as the favorite and covered the one mile in 1:35.81 on the synthetic surface. Matrooh, far back early, closed nicely in the lane and just nipped Don’t Be So Salty for third.

The winner now has four victories and a second in five starts on Tapeta. In his previous start at Woodbine, Decorated Soldier won the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup, a grade III event.