INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 16, 2011)—In a thrilling 10th renewal of the American Oaks – Presented by American Airlines – in which the first five 3-year-old fillies were separated by less than one length, Cambina and Neried finished in a dead heat for the top prize in the $250,000 race Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Two races later, there was almost another dead heat when nine fillies and mares got together in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap. This time, the photo finish camera was able – by the slimmest of noses – to separate winner Irish Gypsy and lukewarm favorite Ultra Blend.
On the lead virtually throughout under jockey Joe Talamo, Nereid was successful in her stakes debut while a troubled Cambina’s fast finish led to her third graded victory – first in a Grade I – in 2011. The final time for the 1 ¼ miles on turf was 2:01.46.
The dead heat was the first in a Grade I at Hollywood Park since the Richard Mandella-trained pair of Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest finished on even terms in the Beverly Hills Handicap June 30, 1990. The most recent stakes dead heat at the track was Surya and Tout Charmant in the Grade II Dahlia Handicap Dec. 21, 2002.
The unusual finish also enabled Martin Garcia and John Shirreffs to make a little American Oaks history. Garcia joined Desormeaux as the only jockey to win the race twice while Shirreffs became the second trainer to double, matching Todd Pletcher. Garcia, who rode Cambina, and Shirreffs, who trains Nereid, combined to win with Harmonious in 2010.
The victory was the third over the Hollywood Park grass for Nereid, whose only defeat came when she finished second behind Zazu in her debut going 6 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track last Oct. 15.
Owned by Eric Kronfeld, the daughter of Rock Hard Ten and the Belong to Me mare Dowry increased her bankroll to $168,800. She was game along the inside when challenged after opening a two length lead with an eighth of a mile to run.
Last for well over half the race, Cambina had to steady off heels in midstretch when rallying between horses, yet was able to get up for her fourth win in seven starts in the United States.
Owned by a partnership that includes Alan Bilich, Jason Cline and George Schmitt and trained by Jeff Bonde, the Irish bred daughter of Hawk Wing and the Peintre Celebre mare Await is 6-for-12 lifetime with earnings of $370,426. She won twice in five starts in her native country before being purchased by her current connections.
Nereid, the 9-2 fourth choice, paid $5.40, $5 and $3.20. Cambina, who was the 7-2 third choice, returned $4.60, $3.80 and $3.40.
Shirreffs’ other entrant, Star Billing, beaten by a head, returned $3.40 to show. Entrustment, the second longest shot in the cast at 19-1, was a head back in fourth and a half-length in front of 13-10 favorite Bizzy Caroline. The only filly not involved at the wire was 27-1 shot Love Theway Youare. She wound up 9 ¼ lengths behind Bizzy Caroline.
“That was only her fourth start and first time against stakes winners,’’ said Talamo. “She ran second to Zazu first time out on (Cushion Track last Oct. 15), she handles the turf, long. She can do anything. She didn’t even start running today until she got to the sixteenth pole. When she felt them coming, she really kicked on. She’s got a very, very bright future.’’
Garcia said he was fortunate he didn’t fall when he ran into trouble in the stretch. “I don’t know who came in or out, but I had to completely pull her up,’’ he said. “I rode her with so much confidence. I know she can really finish, that’s the way she likes to run.’’
Although Shirreffs didn’t indicate any future plans for either of his runners, Bonde said Cambina could return in the $250,000 Del Mar Oaks, a Grade I, Aug. 20.
Owned by Mike Pegram and John G. Sikura and trained by Bob Baffert, Irish Gypsy earned herself a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Nov. 4 with her exciting victory in the Grade II A Gleam.
Additionally, her BC pre-entry and entry fees are waived and her connections will receive a $10,000 travel allowance.
The victory by the 5-year-old daughter of Harlan’s Holiday and the Relaunch mare Rayelle was her first in a graded event. She’s won three in a row and was second in her lone loss in 2011.
Part of the pace immediately under Garcia, Irish Gypsy was able to hold on over Ultra Blend, who finished well in the center of Cushion Track.
Now 6-for-14 lifetime, Irish Gypsy, who ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.44, pushed her bankroll to $359,420.
Dispatched at 5-1, Irish Gypsy, who was bred in Kentucky by Jerry and Ann Moss, paid $12, $5.60 and $3.60.
Seeking her third stakes win of the Spring/Summer meet and fifth victory in a row over Cushion Track, Ultra Blend returned $4.80 and $2.80 as the 7-2 choice. She finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Tanda. The show price on Tanda was $2.80.
“She’s had some small issues, ankles and little things off and on,’’ said Mike Marlow, Baffert’s assistant trainer after the stable’s meet high eighth stakes victory. “But we’ve got her rolling now. She’s had some time to develop. She’s getting stronger as she gets older. She’s better now than she’s ever been. It was close. I thought it might be a dead heat.’’
Mildly Offensive, the lone 3-year-old in the A Gleam, was fourth, a nose in front of Washington Bridge and 2 ½ lengths behind Tanda. Completing the order of finish were Fund Raiser, Shotgun Gulch, Church Camp and American Story.
Killer Graces earned her second stakes win of the meet, outfinishing 17-1 shot Mighty Caroline by a half-length in the $100,000 Landaluce.
A winner of the Cinderella June 11 in her first start after being privately purchased by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 2-year-old daughter of Congaree and the Old Trieste mare Heatherdoesntbluff used the same come-from-behind tactics she had last month. Killer Graces completed the six furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:11.23.
In the process, the 2-1 second choice gave Talamo back-to-back Landaluce victories. Martin Pedroza was the last rider to accomplish the feat before Talamo, who won with Dawnie Macho in 2010. Pedroza won the race three years in a row (1990-1992) for trainer Brian Mayberry.
Second – defeated by a nose – in her career debut when in the barn of Rafael DeLeon, Killer Graces has earned $113,530 while going 2-for-3. Owned by her trainer, Daniel Borislow, Gillian Campbell and Steve Melen, Killer Graces paid $6.60, $4.20 and $3.
“Perfect trip,’’ said Talamo. “I was happy to see they had a little speed duel up there. She does what she always does, kind of relaxes back there and has that real nice turn of foot the last part. She’s just developing so well, race after race.’’
Fresh off a narrow victory in her debut June 12 for owner-breeder John Liviakis and trainer Melody Conlon, Mighty Caroline just failed to spring the upset. The gray daughter of Stormy Atlantic put away favored Woebegon and Stayclassysandiego before being run down in the closing yards. Mighty Caroline paid $13 and $5.60.
Debuting for trainer Peter Miller after being claimed for $40,000 for owners Gary and Cecil Barber out of a maiden win in her June 10 debut, Stayclassysandiego paid $4.40 to show. She finished 3 ¾ lengths behind Mighty Caroline.
The 11-10 choice on the strength of an impressive score in her initiation June 26, Woebegon was a nose behind her stablemate Stayclassysandiego and was followed by Chloe W and Son de America.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time for closing day is 1 p.m.
The 54-day Spring/Summer meet concludes with a pair of Grade III races – the $100,000 Sunset Handicap for older horses at 1 ½ miles on turf and the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship for 2-year-olds at six furlongs over Cushion Track.
The Juvenile is the seventh race and the Sunset is the eighth of nine.
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