INGLEWOOD, Calif. (April 27, 2012)—After tracking a slow pace throughout, Utopian edged Smug in the final strides to win the $98,000 Inglewood Handicap (video) Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The first night program of the Spring/Summer meet also produced the season’s initial Pick Six carryover. The carryover for Saturday, which features the 13th California Gold Rush, is $65,323.
Post time is 1 p.m. The Pick Six will begin in the fifth race, which is the $70,000 Grey Memo Stakes. Scheduled post time is 3:06 p.m.
The Grade III Inglewood was reduced to four starters after the earlier scratch of Acclamation, the prohibitive morning line favorite and the champion older male of 2011.
Scheduled to make his first start since winning the Clement L. Hirsch last Oct. 2 at Santa Anita, Acclamation, a 6-year-old son of Unusual Heat, was declared from the Inglewood after taking what trainer Don Warren termed “some bad steps’’ following a Thursday morning gallop.
“We’re not sure what was going on, but I saw what I saw and we can’t take any chances,’’ said Warren, who trains Acclamation for owner-breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Peter and Mary Hilvers. “He’ll go back to the track (Saturday) and we’ll see if he’s OK. We took x-rays and everything was nice and clean and cold.’’
In the Eclipse Award winner’s absence, Utopian earned his first stakes win in his fourth attempt in a graded event. His best previous effort was a second – defeated by a head – in the Grade II San Marcos Stakes won by Slim Shadey Feb. 11 at Santa Anita.
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, the 5-year-old Rock Hard Ten horse out of the Storm Cat mare Storm Alert prevailed by a head as the 2-1 second choice.
Giving Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith his third Inglewood win in the last four years, Utopian completed the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.73. The victory was the dark bay’s third in 11 starts and pushed his earnings to $183,180.
Trying to provide Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale with back-to-back wins in the Inglewood after he won with Liberian Freighter in 2011, Smug couldn’t quite hold after setting leisurely 25.75, 50.23 and 1:14 2/5 splits for the first six furlongs.
Holladay Road, the 3-5 favorite, was 1 ½ lengths back in third and Haimish Hy, who has lost eight in a row since winning the 2010 Hollywood Derby, wound up 4 ½ lengths behind the public choice.
Now 2-for-3 over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass, Utopian paid $6.80 and $5.40. The place price on Smug was $6. There was no show wagering.
“It was a great win for him,’’ said Smith, who also took the 2009 Inglewood with Madeo – for Shirreffs and the Mosses – and again in 2010 with Gallant Son. “(Utopian) deserves something like this.
“He’s been running well. He just got beat by a head two races back (San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita) and was forced to make a real early move last time out (the San Luis Rey Stakes), so it was nice to come back today and get it done.
“They were going really slow and I knew it was going to turn in to a sprint for home. I tried to move up on the leader early so I could get my momentum going and it worked.’’
Later in the evening, jockey Iggy Puglisi picked up his first win at Betfair Hollywood Park in 17 months when guiding 6-1 shot Woodman’s Lass to a come-from-behind score for trainer Paul Aguirre in the seventh.
The last local victory for Puglisi, 38, prior to Friday was with 28-1 outsider Ghost N Your Heart – also for Aguirre – in the fourth race Nov. 27, 2010.
A series of eight stakes races for horses bred or sired in California, the Gold Rush has purses totaling $1.11 million.
Saturday also will bring a Fans Choice Giveaway, a promotion which features some past giveaway items. The souvenirs are available one per paid admission while supplies last.
The two richest Gold Rush events are the $300,000 Melair for 3-year-old fillies and the $300,000 Snow Chief for 3-year-old colts and geldings. Both will be contested at 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track.
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