INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 29, 2013)—Centralinteligence’s first stakes win couldn’t have come at a better time.
A runner-up twice in four previous appearances in graded races, the 5-year-old Smarty Jones gelding rolled to a 3 ½-length victory in the Grade I, $250,750 Triple Bend Handicap (video) Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
In the process, the 8-1 shot received fees-paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile since the Triple Bend was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In’’ event. The BC Dirt Mile will be run Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Trained by Ron Ellis for a partnership that includes Amerman Racing Stables LLC, Bongo Racing Racing Stable, Gary Finder and Elias Sabo, Centralinteligence tracked the pace set by Comma to the Top while in the clear, collared that one without about an eighth of a mile remaining and drew away under jockey Victor Espinoza.
Runner-up to Comma to the Top in the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap May 27, the Kentucky bred, who is out of the Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars, ran the seven furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:21.57. He paid $19, $9.20 and $6.60.
The victory was the fourth for Centralinteligence, who had finished ahead of only one horse in two previous tries at the Triple Bend distance. The $150,000 payday nearly doubled his bankroll. He’s earned $308,921 in 12 starts.
“This is what we planned for all meet,’’ said Ellis. “It was nice that he put it all together for us on the right day.
“He ran so poorly in this race last year (sixth) because he came out of it with a chip in his knee, so he certainly had a good excuse. He had surgery and they actually pulled two chips out of his right front leg.’’
Although Centralinteligence secured a spot in the BC Dirt Mile, Ellis said the chestnut will be pointed towards the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which will also be run Nov. 2.
“This was our test today to show if he was good enough to keep pace with some good sprinters,’’ he said. “You won’t see him run again until the fall meet at Santa Anita.’’
Espinoza, who rode Centralinteligence for the first time in the Los Angeles, collected his fifth Triple Bend victory. His earlier wins came with Elaborate (2000), Disturbingthepeace (2002), Pohave (2004) and Zensational (2009).
“He was ready today,’’ said Espinoza. “He was ready to go. The race set up very well, the way I wanted. He performed to our expectations.’’
Comma to the Top, who was searching for his third stakes win of the Spring/Summer meet and his sixth at Betfair Hollywood Park, was 1 ¼ lengths in front of 14-1 outsider Morning Line, who was racing for the first time since trailing in the Grade II Californian June 2, 2012.
First or second in seven of his 10 starts over Cushion Track, Comma to the Top paid $5.80 and $4.40. Morning Line returned $8.40 to show.
Drill was fourth, a half-length behind Morning Line, then came Rail Trip, who is also trained by Ellis, Cyclometer, defending champion Camp Victory and 3-2 favorite Jimmy Creed.
Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, who trains Jimmy Creed, said the winner of last year’s Grade I Malibu Stakes did have an excuse for his subpar performance Saturday.
“He was taking a step forward when they went to break it, then he took a step back,’’ said Mandella. “(Jockey) Gary (Stevens) said he got hung up and got off bad. He came back missing his left front shoe.’’
Racing resumes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m. Track gates will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
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