INGLEWOOD, Calif. (April 28, 2012)— Unusual Heatwave, a half-brother to 2010 winner Alphie’s Bet, collared favored Stoney Fleece in the closing yards to take the $300,000 Snow Chief,(video) capping another memorable California Gold Rush Day for jockey Rafael Bejarano at Betfair Hollywood Park.
About 24 hours after he had been sworn in as a United States citizen, Bejarano, 29, won four other races Saturday – three of them stakes – and this was the second time he’s had five wins on a Gold Rush card. The Peruvian-born rider also accomplished the feat in 2009.
Through the first three days of the Spring/Summer meet, Bejarano has five stakes wins. The record for a Spring/Summer season is 18, set by Bill Shoemaker during a 77-day meet in 1971.
In the day’s second most lucrative event for horses bred or sired in California, Grade I winner Willa B Awesome gained another nose victory, taking the $288,000 Melair Stakes. (video)
A narrow winner over Reneesgotzip in the Santa Anita Oaks when 13-1 March 31 at Santa Anita, Willa B Awesome prevailed by the same margin Saturday as the 11-10 favorite.
The fifth victory in 13 starts for the 3-year-old Awesome Gambler filly out of the Nineeleven mare Cause I’m Tricky came after a race long battle with 2-1 second choice Starry Skies.
Making her first appearance on synthetic after winning two turf sprints to begin her career at Santa Anita, Starry Skies took the early lead from Willa B Awesome and held it for all but a jump or two. The final time for the nine furlongs was 1:53.33.
Owned by a partnership that includes breeder Terry Lovingier, Phil Daniels, Patsy London and John Winters and trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome, who carried top weight of 124 pounds, seven more than the runner-up, increased her bankroll to $578,896.
The chestnut filly has now won three stakes in 2012. Prior to the Melair and Santa Anita Oaks, Willa B Awesome had gone gate-to-wire at 11-1 in the Grade III Santa Ysabel Jan. 28 at Santa Anita.
She was ridden Saturday by Martin Pedroza, who has been aboard for all but one of her victories. Willa B Awesome paid $4.20, $2.40 and $2.10. Starry Skies, who finished 3 ½ lengths in front of 3-1 third choice, returned $3.20 and $2.20. The show price on Starlight Magic was $2.40.
“ I wasn’t going to let that other filly get away,’’ said Pedroza, back in action less than two weeks after suffering broken ribs in a spill at Santa Anita. “I figured that other filly (Starry Skies) is two-for-two and I can’t let her get away because she might hang in there tough and beat me at the end.
“I got side by side with her to make her do a little something. The other filly hung in pretty tough, I’ll give her credit.’’
Getting his first shot at 1 1/8 miles, Unusual Heatwave took full advantage of the opportunity, earning his second win in nine starts and padding his bankroll to $265,262. He’s owned by Ellen and Peter O. Johnson, Sr. and Teresa McWilliams and trained by Alexis Barba, the same connections that campaigned Alphie’s Bet.
Making his first start on a surface other than turf since he debuted over the Del Mar Polytrack last Aug. 7, Unusual Heatwave rallied in the center of the track to win by a half-length in 1:51.63.
The 5-2 second choice, Unusual Heatwave paid $7.40, $3.60 and $2.80. Stoney Fleece, the 19-10 choice, returned $3.40 and $3.20. He finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of maiden Dylan Donnelly. The show price on the 7-1 shot was $4.20.
“It was a good trip,’’ said Bejarano, who has 16 Gold Rush wins, second to Victor Espinoza’s 21. “I followed the favorite the whole way and stayed out of trouble.
“He was much the best today. At the beginning, it didn’t look like he wanted to go, but at the half-mile pole he really picked it up. I was waiting for the favorite to move by the three-eighths and I decided to wait a little more until I came to the stretch. As soon as we straightened away I let him run and he took off.’’
The easiest of Bejarano’s wins was courtesy of Mobilized, who won the $125,000 Tiznow (video) by 7 ¼ lengths as the 5-2 second choice.
Trained by Gary Mandella for owners Double JH Stables, Inc. and the Estate of breeder Robert Reseigne, the 6-year-old son of Soul of the Matter and the Red Ransom mare Valleyofthebells, Mobilized dominated after trailing for the first half mile and despite Bejarano losing his whip with about three furlongs to run.
Covering the 7 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:29.47, Mobilized won for the sixth time in 22 races. He’s earned $360,080.
Third behind Amazombie and Quick Enough in the 2011 Tiznow, Mobilized paid $7.80, $3.40 and $2.80. Italian Rules, the 2-1 favorite, was second, a half-length in front of 15-1 shot Kingpin Ryno. Italian Rules returned $3.60 and $2.40. The show payoff on Kingpin Ryno was $7.20.
Another of Bejarano’s winners, Warren’s Jitterbug, also took advantage of a contested pace as she rallied for an 11-1 surprise in the $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes. (video)
The win was the most lucrative of three Saturday for owner-breeder Benjamin Warren and trainer Jorge Gutierrez.
The pair combined to take the opener, a $50,000 claimer for maiden California bred fillies, with Warren’s Mo Money, then completed the triple with Warren’s Internet in the fourth, the $60,000 Alphabet Kisses. (video)
A 5-year-old daughter of Affirmative and the Peaks and Valleys mare Jitterbug Jan, Warren’s Jitterbug won the fourth time in 24 starts. The $71,250 payday pushed her earnings to $355,994. This was her initial win in 10 races over synthetic surfaces.
Warren’s Jitterbug completed the 7 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:31.44. She paid $25, $11.20 and $7. Going for a Spin, who was also outrun early, completed the exacta, a half-length behind the winner. She paid $8.40 and $5.20.
Sister Kate, who won the pace battle over favored stablemate Halo Dolly, returned $6 to show. The race was the first away from Golden Gate Fields for the full sister to Brother Derek.
Camille C. winless since her victory in the 2010 Melair, was a neck back in fourth and she was a nose in front of 19-10 choice Halo Dolly. A Jealous Woman and Miss Becca completed the order of finish.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the all-time leading Gold Rush trainer, added two wins to his total, taking the $72,800 Grey Memo (video) with 8-1 shot Gatheratthealter and the $71,400 Warren’s Thoroughbreds (video) with 2-1 favorite Sparkling Style.
The 2 ½ length victory by Sparkling Style, who is owned by Arnold Zetcher, was her second in a Gold Rush event. A year earlier, the daughter of Badge of Silver had earned her maiden victory in the Alphabet Kisses.
Joe Talamo rode Sparkling Style, who completed the seven furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:23.71.
The nose win by Gatheratthealter, a $32,000 claim last Dec. 9 by Live Your Dream Racing Stables LLC, which includes longtime handicapper and Television Games Network personality Bob Baedeker, was the 11th in the Gold Rush for Baffert. John Sadler is second with seven wins.
A 4-year-old gelded son of Lucky Pulpit and the Nashwan mare Gather the Group, Gatheratthealter, who was ridden by Bejarano, has won five of 14 and earned $79,268. Defeating Relentless Heat by a head, he ran the seven furlongs in 1:23.74. It was his first victory in five outings since he was claimed at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The Gold Rush wrapped when Valentine Boy, a 6-1 shot who had been idle since last July 24, won the $60,000 NTRA Stakes (video) under jockey Chantal Sutherland.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.
There will be a carryover of $31,360 for the Super High 5 after no one isolated the wager Saturday. The Super High 5 is offered daily on the final race.
The main event on Sunday’s nine race card is the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap.
A Grade III for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf, the Wilshire will go as the eighth.
Nereid, who won the Grade I American Oaks in a dead heat with Cambina last July, is the 5-2 favorite on Russ Hudak’s morning line. She will be making her first start of 2012 for owner Eric Kronfeld and trainer John Shirreffs.
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