INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 27, 2009) — Fluke made a dramatic late run under jockey Joe Talamo to score an emotional upset victory for the barn of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel in Friday’s $300,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park.
The Brazilian-bred was saddled by Frankel’s long-time assistant Humberto Ascanio, who sent out many stakes horses during a 35-year stint with the legendary horsemen, but not in his own name.
Ascanio, who officially took over Frankel’s stable at Hollywood Park following the trainer’s death from lymphoma on Nov. 16, was the trainer of record and earned his first stakes win in the Grade I event.
The gathering in the winner’s circle was a happy one for Ascanio and his family, including his wife Maureen and 15-month old grandson Jonathan, whom he held in his arms for the winning photo.
It was also a big moment for 19-year-old Talamo, who came to Southern California a couple years back at the behest of Frankel.
“This is very emotional for me,” he said. “Bobby’s the one who brought me out here. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”
The Citation is the first race in Hollywood Park’s Turf Festival, which features five graded stakes over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Frankel dominated the Festival with 17 winners in the first 17 years of the popular late-season event.
“Bobby told me to get him ready,” Ascanio said. “To be positive, he is training good. He was right. The horse was doing good. My job was to continue training. I’m just happy to win for him.”
Talamo, who rode five winners here last Sunday, was at his best in the Citation, sitting patiently and saving ground much of the way before turning the 4-year-old loose in the final furlong.
Fluke, the sixth choice at odds of 9-1, gained the lead in deep stretch, covering 1 1/16 miles on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:40.48 to register his first stakes victory in North America. He won a Group 3 event in Brazil in 2008 and has now won five of 11 starts with three second-place finishes.
Ever a Friend finished second, 1 ¼ lengths back of Fluke. Second choice Cowboy Cal was another neck back in third and Proudinksy, also trained by Ascanio, finished fourth in the field of eight older horses. Favorite Blue Chagall did not threaten while finishing last.
“He was confident,” Ascanio said of Talamo. “He said this horse can win. I like that. It was a tough race, I’m just happy to win it. I knew he had a lot of horse at the head of the stretch, he hadn’t asked him. “
Talamo, second in the jockeys’ standings with 14 wins through 11 days of the 27-day Autumn Meet, liked his chances Friday.
“I watched the replay of his last race and man, he came home in :22,” he said. “I’m not going to say that we knew he was going to win, but we came in with a lot of confidence. He’s a real nice horse and I think he’s going to go on to do some big things. They weren’t really going all that fast, but into the turn I could see some of them were making early moves. In the stretch it was just a matter of finding a seam, and when he found one, he really took off.”
Fluke, owned by Patricia Bozano, banked $180,000 to boost his earnings to $308,348. He also rewarded his backers handsomely, paying $20, $7.80 and $4.40. Ever a Friend returned $6 and $3.80, while the show payoff on Cowboy Cal was $3.20.
Ever a Friend led inside the eighth pole, but could not match Fluke in the final sixteenth.
“Coming to the three-eighths, a horse came up on the outside (Blue Chagall) and he made me move a little early,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran good. I don’t think I would have won, I just wish I could have waited longer.”
Ascanio will saddle Ventura in the $300,000 Matriarch as the Turf Festival continues Saturday with the Grade I race for fillies and mares and with the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds. It wraps up Sunday with the $300,000 Hollywood Derby and the $100,000 Miesque Stakes.
Post time each day is 12:30 p.m.
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