You’d think that when a trainer runs first, second and third in a graded stakes, the stable area would be abuzz with the news the following morning.
There was a buzz all right, but for a different reason.
Though Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer completed the trifecta in Saturday’s Grade III, $150, 500 Native Diver Stakes with Blueskiesnrainbows, Hear the Ghost and Rousing Sermon, respectively, the achievement was dwarfed by the trainer’s scintillating victory with Shared Belief in the Grade I, $751,500 CashCall Futurity (video).
The CashCall was Shared Belief’s third blowout win in as many starts. He’s won his races by a combined 20 ½ lengths after his 5 ¾ length win in the CashCall.
“I think he deserves the Eclipse (as champion 2-year-old male),” stated Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s long-time assistant. “He was never asked and I think this race was easier on him than the other two. His time was fast and he beat a really good field.”
Hollendorfer was a bit more reserved on the subject. “I think the other side (referring to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day) would have a different argument,’’ he said.
So far, Shared Belief has proven his speed, class and stamina. The next question is how he will handle dirt. His maiden victory was on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields (Oct. 19) and he earned his first win over Cushion Track in the Grade III Hollywood Prevue Stakes Nov. 10.
“He’ll ship to Santa Anita next week and then we’ll see how he trains on dirt,” said Ward. “The logical races to run in are the San Felipe Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and then if everything goes well, on to Kentucky.”
Never one to put the cart before the horse, Hollendorfer pointed out other options. “There are a lot of 3-year-old races at the beginning of the year,’’ he said. “We’ll probably stay in California but we’ll also look elsewhere.”
Ward suggested that Shared Belief came out of the race better than he went in. “He came back perfect,’’ he said. “He’s not a huge horse, but he’s growing all the time.”
Ward said that Del Mar Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes winner Tamarando, who finished third, seven lengths behind his stablemate, also returned well and would be pointed for California bred races at the upcoming Santa Anita Winter/Spring meet, which begins Dec. 26.
An honorable mention in the CashCall goes to Candy Boy, who finished second at 26-1 after breaking his maiden by 8 ¼ lengths Nov. 22. The John Sadler trainee gave the sire Candy Ride an exacta sweep.
“The winner was impressive, but my horse ran very well,” observed Sadler. “He was clear of the third place finisher and well clear of the fourth horse. I think he’s a Derby-type horse.
“He came back well, but Kobe’s Back had a superficial cut on his ankle.”
Kobe’s Back finished 10th after clipping heels on the backstretch.
Tap It Rich, the 5-2 second choice in the Futurity, finished 11th and was unmanageable for much of the race.
“He’s fine this morning,” said Mike Marlow, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “After his first race, he’s become real aggressive and has been lugging in and out fighting the rider. He’s a project.”
Ward added that Blueskiesnrainbows, Hear the Ghost and Rousing Sermon all came out of the Native Diver in “great shape.’’
With four days remaining in the final meet in Betfair Hollywood Park history, jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Joe Talamo are tied atop the standings with 29 victories apiece.
Bejarano began the week with a seven-winner lead over third place Talamo, but the combination of a Bejarano suspension and a four-winner day by Talamo Dec. 13 led to the deadlock.
Bejarano has led most of the meet, but Talamo has been a relentless challenger. During the 2013 Spring/Summer meet, it was Talamo who had a sizeable lead most of the way, only to be overtaken on closing day by Bejarano and Edwin Maldonado, who shared the title.
Bejarano and Talamo will go head-to-head in the final two stakes races in the track’s history.
In the $200,000-guaranteed Soviet Problem Stakes Dec. 21, Talamo rides Blinkers On Racing Stable et al’s Stole a Kiss for trainer Mike Puype while Bejarano will be aboard Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams’ Swiss Lake Yodeler for Hollendorfer.
In the $200,000-guaranteed King Glorious Stakes, the main event on closing day (Sunday, Dec. 22), Bejarano will ride Tommy Town Thoroughbred’s Pray Hard for Hollendorfer while Talamo has the call on Blinkers On Racing Stable’s Mass Transit for Peter Miller.
Bob Baffert increased his lead in the trainer’s race last week. He has 16 wins, four more than Sadler and Miller, who are tied for second. Hollendorfer is fourth with 11 victories.
Bob Baffert unleashed yet another top prospect Friday when Midnight Hawk overcame a slow start and went on to a 6 ¼ length victory against fellow 2-year-old maidens.
Mike Pegram, a longtime client of Baffert, bred the son of Midnight Lute, but wound up selling the grey colt over dinner after a Chicago Blackhawks game.
“Mike was having dinner with a couple of friends—Joel Quenneville and Mike Tice—when the subject of the horse came up,” said Baffert.
Quenneville, affectionately known as “Coach Q,” is the head coach of the Blackhawks and was in Los Angeles for a game against the Kings. Mike Tice, who played in the National Football League for a number of years, is also a former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
Midnight Hawk was named for Quenneville’s team.
“The colt trained really well, but I didn’t think he’d win that easily,” remarked Baffert. “When he broke poorly, I thought it was over. He’s still pretty green.”
“They just wanted to have some fun when they bought the horse, but now they’re pretty pumped up.”
CLOSING STRIDES— As the curtain comes down on Betfair Hollywood Park, Bob Baffert is nearing a milestone. The Hall of Famer is one victory shy of 100 stakes wins at the Inglewood track. The only trainers with at least 100 are also in the Hall of Fame—*Charlie Whittingham* (222), Bobby Frankel (149), Ron McAnally (124) and Richard Mandella (103)…… Lucayan, last-to-first winner of the Grade II, $250,250 Hollywood Turf Cup Saturday, returned from the victory well, according to Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale. “We haven’t made any plans for him yet,” said Drysdale. “We’ll sit down and plan a program for him.”……..Today will be the final 405 Double, which requires selecting the winner of the final race at Betfair Hollywood Park and the winner of the first race at Los Alamitos. The $2 minimum bet will not be offered Sunday, Dec. 22….Congratulations to John Kent of Columbus, Ohio, who won the $2,500 winner-take-all Show Me The Money contest Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park. The free challenge, which began Nov. 10 with 1,714 players, required a participant to choose one horse each racing day – in six designated races – at least 10 minutes before the first race. The selected horse had to finish first, second or third for a player to continue. There were two survivors entering the 21st day of the Autumn meet, but Stephen Pordon of Longmont, Colorado was eliminated when Ubelongtomemissy, his Thursday selection, finished fifth as the 17-10 favorite in the sixth.
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