INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 2, 2011)—Favored Courageous Cat gamely held off Caracortado in the final eighth of a mile to win the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile Saturday at Hollywood Park.
The neck victory in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In’’ event earned the 5-year-old son of Storm Cat and the Rahy mare Tranquility Lake a spot in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
The Shoemaker was the first of two Grade I races Saturday.
In the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap, Smiling Tiger, the 17-10 second choice, remained undefeated over Cushion Track with a gate-to-wire victory.
Second behind the brilliant Goldikova in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita in his last visit to California, Courageous Cat tracked pacesetter Liberian Freighter, gained the advantage from that one early in the stretch, then outfinished the 5-2 second choice. He completed the distance on turf in 1:33.19.
Owned by breeders Pam and Marty Wygod and trained by Bill Mott, Courageous Cat was ridden by Patrick Valenzuela.
Third in the Shadwell Turf Mile last Oct. 9 at Keeneland in his only previous collaboration with the bay, Valenzuela reached a milestone with the thrilling victory. It was the 100th stakes success at Hollywood Park for Valenzuela, 48. He is the 10th rider to reach the plateau.
It was also Valenzuela’s first Grade I win since he teamed with J P’s Gusto to win the Del Mar Futurity last Sept. 8. His most recent Grade I victory at Hollywood Park prior to Saturday was Designed for Luck in the Shoemaker Mile May 31, 2004.
Providing Mott with his biggest local win since Court Vision won the 2008 Hollywood Derby, Courageous Cat is now 2-for-2 this year, having taken the Grade III Poker June 10 at Belmont Park.
Now 6-for-13 in his career, Courageous Cat’s bankroll increased to $961,300. He paid $4, $2.60 and $2.20 as the even-money favorite.
Returning to turf after finishing sixth – beaten less than one length – in the Alysheba Stakes last month over the Churchill Downs main track, Caracortado paid $3.20 and $2.40. He wound up 4 ¾ lengths ahead of defending champion Victor’s Cry. The show price on Victor’s Cry was $2.60.
Blue Chagall, Smokey Lonesome and Liberian Freighter completed the order of finish. Ashtar was scratched.
“It was a nice way to get the 100th stakes win because Bill Shoemaker was my idol,’’ said Valenzuela. “I just wanted my horse to relax and that’s what he did. He relaxed perfectly behind the leader and settled nicely.
“I could have gotten him any time I wanted. I waited as long as I could and he kicked on for home. When that horse (Caracortado) came to him he fought back. That horse was never going to get by him.’’
Marty Wygod is already looking forward to another encounter with Goldikova, the three-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“I’m looking for revenge,’’ he said. “If you notice in all his races, he goes to his left lead right after he takes the lead. When somebody runs up to him, then he’ll start to do well again.
“You could see he wasn’t going to give it up today. I was pretty confident. Patrick Valenzuela is a great professional and we’ve tried to give him every chance he deserves. Coming back at his age with his spirit and drive, it’s a good thing to see him getting the job done.’’
Third aboard Mr Gruff in the 2010 Shoemaker Mile, jockey Joe Talamo thought he was going to get his first win in the race when Caracortado began his pursuit of the leaders entering the final quarter of a mile.
“We had an absolutely perfect trip, just got outrun,’’ said Talamo. “I really thought I had the winner at the top of the stretch because I had a lot of horse turning for home. The other one just had a little more.’’
Back in California after finishing a much-troubled sixth as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade II Churchill Downs May 7 in Kentucky, Smiling Tiger was always in control en route to a 3 ¼ length win in the Triple Bend.
Successful in the Grade III Lazaro S. Barrera Memorial and Grade I Ancient Title in two starts at Hollywood Park in 2010, the 4-year-old son of Hold That Tiger and the Cahill Road mare Shandra Smiles is now 3-for-3 locally and 8-for-16 lifetime.
Trained by Jeff Bonde for owners Alan Klein and Philip Lebherez, Smiling Tiger became a millionaire with his win. The $150,000 payday pushed his earnings to $1,149,353.
Providing Rosario, the meet’s leading rider, with his first Triple Bend victory, Smiling Tiger paid $5.40, $4 and $2.80.
Seeking his second graded win since being claimed for $40,000 by trainer Mike Mitchell in February, Camp Victory was a clear second, 2 ¼ lengths in front of 3-2 favorite Amazombie.
Camp Victory, a 9-1 shot, paid $6.80 and $3.80. Amazombie returned $2.60 to show.
“He’s a really good horse,’’ said Rosario after his meet-high 11th stakes victory. “The good thing with him is that when he sees a horse close to him, he just wants to beat him.
“He might be a Breeders’ Cup horse. When I rode Twirling Candy (in the Malibu Stakes last Dec. 26) at Santa Anita, we set a track record (for seven furlongs) and it took us a long time to get by this horse. I worked him for the first time last week and I can really see how he’s improving.’’
Bonde indicated Smiling Tiger could return to defend his title in the $250,000 Bing Crosby later in the month (July 31) at Del Mar and also compete in the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Aug. 28. He was third in that race in 2010. Both are Grade I’s.
“We got a good trip today and the horse got to express himself,’’ said Bonde. “When he has his days he comes with a good one. This horse has the ability to go quick and still rally. He’s got a very long stride, he’s a big, long stretchy horse.
“Every day he seems to be a better animal. He was like a big, skinny teenager as a young horse and the older he’s gotten he’s put on muscle mass and filled out.
“He’s become a professional where before he was kind of a goof off as a young guy. We’re trying to win the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint) with him.’’
Don Elias M., a 19-1 shot, concluded a Player’s Pick 5 and Early Pick 4 dominated by longshots, leading to hefty payoffs in two wagers with a 50 cent minimum.
The Player’s Pick 5, which begins daily in the first race, returned $28,078.15. The return on the Early Pick 4, which starts in the second, was $64,068.30, the largest of the Spring/Summer. Based on a $1 minimum, it was the biggest Pick 4 at Hollywood Park since a record $355,727 April 27, 2007.
There were two perfect tickets in the Pick 6. It was worth $207,087. An additional $625,871 was wagered Saturday in pursuit of a Friday night carryover of $79,818.
When racing resumes Sunday – post time 1 p.m. – there will be a carryover of $35,974 in the Super High 5, which is offered daily at Hollywood Park in the final race.
Former Breeders’ Cup winners California Flag (2009 Turf Sprint) and Dancing in Silks (2009 Sprint) are among eight scheduled to run six furlongs on turf in the $77,000 Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap in the feature on the nine race card.
A two-time winner over the Hollywood Park grass, California Flag is the 9-5 favorite on Russ Hudak’s morning line.
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