INGLEWOOD, Calif. (December 4, 2010)—Taking full advantage of a race devoid of pace, Aggie Engineer led throughout to earn the biggest victory of his career in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Able to get away with extremely slow fractions, the 5-year-old E Dubai gelding and the Dixieland Band mare Papalma became a graded stakes winner with the 1 ¾ length score over Cushion Track.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Aggie Engineer was the second consecutive gate-to-wire winner in the Grade III. Mast Track won in similar fashion in 2009.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher, who also saddled third-place finisher Soul Candy, Aggie Engineer, the 3-1 second choice, has won six of 16 for owner-breeders Ward and Roberta Williford. The $60,000 payday boosted his earnings to $268,280.
Giving both jockey and trainer their first win in the Native Diver, which was run for the 32nd time Saturday, Aggie Engineer paid $8, $4.60 and $3.20.
Spurrier, an 8-1 shot, rallied wide for second, a half-length in front of Soul Candy, who had won the California Cup Classic Oct. 30 in his first synthetic start.
Trained by Bob Baffert, who remains one win shy of 2,000 in his Hall of Fame career, Spurrier paid $8.20 and $5.20. Soul Candy’s show price was $3.40.
Dakota Phone, the beneficiary of very quick fractions when capturing the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with a last-to-first rally at 37-1 Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, was fourth as the 8-5 choice.
The 5-year-old Zavata gelding finished a half-length behind Soul Candy, then came Achak, Romp and Philatelist. Dakota Phone is winless in eight attempts at nine furlongs.
A pace pressing main track winner Oct. 22 in his previous outing, Aggie Engineer was able to go a lot slower this time around. He went 25.55 seconds for the opening quarter mile, 50.52 for the half, 1:15.49 for six furlongs and 1:39.26 for the mile. The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:51.04.
“He had a magnificent trip,’’ said Talamo. “Obviously on paper he was the speed of the race. He’s such a great horse to ride and I tried to be a good pilot. I just let him do his own thing.
“He was just cruising around there and when I asked him to go he did. Usually when there’s no speed, somebody always goes. Fortunately it worked out well today. He got the job done real nice. It was fun.’’
Racing continues Sunday. Post time is 12:30 p.m.
The main attraction is the final public appearance in California by Zenyatta. The brilliant mare, who won 19 of 20 and more than $7.3 million in purses, will be honored between the sixth and seventh races Sunday.
Zenyatta will be in the paddock around 3 p.m. local time, then, approximately 15 minutes later, will walk to the track and parade in front of both the grandstand and clubhouse area.
Members of her team, including owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith, will also be acknowledged.
In addition, Smith, who rode Zenyatta in her last 17 races, will be available to sign autographs. The session begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Paddock Tote Board.
The feature race is the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap, a Grade II at 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track. The field of eight fillies and mares includes defending champion Zardana. She is trained by Shirreffs, who has won the Bayakoa a record five times.
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