INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 15, 2013)—Jockey Gary Stevens has certainly made the most of his two victories at the Spring/Summer meet at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The Hall of Famer, who earned his first win at the historic track in nearly eight years with a thrilling victory aboard Marketing Mix in the Grade I Gamely May 27, added another Grade I to his extremely impressive resume with a 6-1 surprise atop Byrama in the $250,250 Vanity Handicap Saturday.
Racing without blinkers for the first time in 10 months and making her Cushion Track debut, Byrama overtook runaway leader Royal Tiger approaching the stretch, then pulled away from More Chocolate in the final eighth of a mile to win by 3 ½ lengths.
Trained by Simon Callaghan for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Byrama, a 4-year-old Byron filly out of the Darshaan mare Aymara, completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.40. The victory was her fifth in 19 starts. The English-bred’s first Grade I success increased her earnings to $484,750.
The fifth choice in a field of six, Byrama paid $14, $6.20 and $3. More Chocolate, the 5-2 second choice who was making her synthetic track debut for trainer John Sadler, returned $3.60 and $2.60. She finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of 8-5 favorite Lady of Fifty, who paid $2.20 to show.
“Just a great race for this filly,’’ said Stevens, the only jockey to have won a Grade I at the current meet. “Distance was the question. We didn’t have any cover going around the first turn and I was a little worried about that, but then she settled in well into a real nice rhythm.
“Actually, I made her kick a little earlier than I would have liked. Her run is only about an eighth of a mile and I had to use her between the quarter pole and the eighth pole and she was able to float home the last sixteenth of a mile.
“She put (More Chocolate) away and nobody else was really running. She’s a wonderful filly. She probably deserved to win the (Grade I) Madison (April 13, a race in which she was second, beaten by a neck) at Keeneland and we are probably going to get some more Grade I wins with her.’’
Callaghan said Byrama, who had been the runner-up in two previous races over synthetic surfaces before Saturday, said he will keep her on artificial tracks in the immediate future.
“She loves the synthetic, so we’ll definitely keep her on that,’’ he said. “It’s great to get a Grade I win with her because, respectfully, she was the best filly that day at Keeneland and to get it done today is fantastic.’’
Sadler wasn’t discouraged by the effort of More Chocolate, who tried the winner early in the stretch, but couldn’t match strides late.
“I thought she was going to win on the turn, we got really excited at the quarter pole,’’ said Sadler. “She might have hung just a little bit. It was a good second for her first time on synthetic.’’
Royal Tiger, who had a five-length advantage through a 47.14 half mile, faded to fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind Lady of Fifty. Completing the order of finish were Open Water and Esentepe, who was eased in the stretch by jockey Corey Nakatani.
In the $101,000 Willard L. Proctor Memorial (video), the initial stakes event of the Spring/Summer meet for 2-year-olds, Kobe’s Back, a first-time starter named in honor of Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar Kobe Bryant, overcame a horrible start to win going away.
The 9-5 favorite, Kobe’s Back spotted his eight opponents several lengths at the start, was still last after three-eighths of a mile, but finished strongly, ultimately collaring 8-1 shot Willie B Awesome inside the final sixteenth of a mile to win clear under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
A $480,000 purchase in March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company Selected Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, Kobe’s Back covered the 5 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:05.42. The victory was worth $60,000 to Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable. Trained by Sadler, Kobe’s Back paid $5.60, $4 and $3 while winning by 3 ¼ lengths.
“It was unbelievable,’’ said Bejarano after his first Proctor win. “This horse is something else. He was standing good in the gate, but kind of jumped when it opened. I worked him twice from the gate and he had never done that before.
“The last time he broke so fast I thought I was going to be two lengths in front today on an easy lead. The way he ran today, I think he can come from behind, too.’’
Lee Searing thought the gray son of Flatter and the Well Decorated mare Well would be an appropriate horse to name after Bryant.
“We’re Laker fans and I actually think Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest athletes ever,’’ said Searing. “I’ve been going for 17 years watching him play. We have all these 2-year-olds, so after Kobe got hurt, I said I know he’s coming back, so we came up with Kobe’s Back. I don’t know Kobe, but the bottom line is I’ve admired him every day he’s played basketball.’’
A full brother to multiple stakes winner Willa B Awesome, Willie B Awesome slipped through an opening along the rail to assume a 2 ½ length lead with an eighth of a mile remaining, but was no match for the winner late in his third race for trainer Walther Solis.
One month removed from an easy maiden victory versus fellow California breds, Sprouts stepped into stakes company Saturday and was dominant again in the $100,250 Cinderella (video).
A daughter of Square Eddie and the Yankee Victor mare Ann Summers Gold, Sprouts ran away from her five rivals in a race restricted to 2-year-old fillies.
Content to track from the outside while Pleasant Miss and favored On the Backstreets dueled for the lead, Sprouts swung three deep to engage that pair nearing the stretch, then powered away to win by 3 ½ lengths under jockey Mario Gutierrez.
Owned by breeder J. Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC and trained by Edward Freeman, Sprouts completed the 5 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:054.45. She paid $8, $4.20 and $3.20 as the 3-1 third choice.
Making her first start with Lasix after winning by 5 ¼ lengths at 11-1 May 16, Sprouts pushed her earnings to $92,240. She was fifth of nine in her career debut April 26 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
“She’s improved so much,’’ said Freeman. “I think it’s just experience and maturity. The first race she definitely learned a lot and grew up.
“The second time (Gutierrez) was super confident. Then she came back and worked beautifully for this race. I was pretty confident going in. I thought she might get a speed duel in front of her and she did.’’
In her initial start after being privately purchased by a partnership that includes Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Pleasant Miss, the 5-2 second choice, held second by one length over Time for Angie. The runner-up returned $4.40 and $3 while the show price on Time for Angie was $3.80.
On the Backstreets, the even-money favorite, weakened to fourth, 9 ¼ lengths behind Time for Angie. La Madera and Pay the Debt completed the order of finish. Sensational Nikki scratched.
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.
The feature attraction on the nine race program is the $70,000 Desert Stormer Handicap for older fillies and mares at six furlongs over Cushion Track. The field includes the Ron Ellis-trained duo of multiple graded stakes winners Teddy’s Promise and Include Me Out.
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