INGLEWOOD, Calif. (December 8, 2012)—Supplemented late at a total cost of $20,000, Pure Fun became a Grade I winner Saturday, rallying strongly in the final quarter of a mile to take the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet (video) at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The 6-1 surprise came about 90 minutes after Lady of Fifty earned her first graded win in the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes.
Trained by Ken McPeek for his family’s Magdalena Racing, Pure Fun, a 2-year-old daughter of Pure Prize and the Key to the Mint mare Chelsea Green, was behind all seven of her opponents approaching the stretch.
Racing in the clear under jockey Garrett Gomez, the chestnut, who was making her first start outside Kentucky and first over a synthetic surface, quickly made up much ground, ultimately collaring pacesetter Blonde Fog with about a sixteenth of a mile to go.
The one length win was the second in a row and third in eight starts for Pure Fun, who completed the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track in 1:44.65. She’s earned $343,599.
McPeek’s decision to supplement was made after Pure Fun’s 9 ¼ length victory in an optional claimer Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. In her only previous appearance in a graded event before Saturday, Pure Fun, who began her career in a $50,000 maiden claimer in June, finished seventh in the Grade III Jessamine Oct. 11 over the turf at Keeneland.
Among those who were no match for the winner Saturday was 2-5 favorite Executiveprivilege. The double Grade I winner finished fourth – beaten 5 ½ lengths – without a visible excuse for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also saddled 5-1 second choice Blonde Fog.
In her initial collaboration with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Executiveprivilege, who was making her first start in blinkers, was well positioned inside on the backstretch, moved into second outside Blonde Fog after six furlongs, but failed to sustain her bid.
There was plenty of thought that another Grade I victory for the daughter of First Samurai would have greatly enhanced her case for an Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old filly, despite her loss to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 2.
The first off the board finish of Executiveprivilege’s career triggered inflated show prices. Of the $162,560 in the show pool, $123,574 was bet on the Kentucky bred.
“Extremely disappointed,’’ said Smith. “I had a beautiful trip, but she got her head way up and did not menace. I just hope everything is OK with her after the race.’’
Providing Gomez with his first Starlet win, Pure Fun paid $14.40, $6 and $10.60. Blonde Fog, who was stepping into a Grade I after a 12 ½ length maiden victory in her Oct.28 debut at Santa Anita, returned $6 and $9.40. The show price on Scarlet Strike, who was nearly 20-1, was $19. She finished two lengths behind Blonde Fog.
“She jumped away well, but I was a little bit concerned because she was not traveling her best around the first turn,’’ said Gomez. “About halfway down the backside, she started figuring it out and when I wheeled her out she was really accelerating. She took off and was very impressive.’’
Matt Shirer, McPeek’s assistant, indicated Pure Fun will remain in California for about a week before returning to Kentucky. He added the primary target in 2013 is the Grade I Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs.
“She was a little further back than I thought she was going to be,’’ said Shirer. “It was the same kind of thing in (her Nov. 24 win) – around the quarter pole she came flying.’’
Sharp Cat winner Midnight Ballet finished fifth and she was followed by Renee’s Titan, Miss Empire and Rhodium.
In the Grade II Bayakoa, which was presented by the Oak Tree Racing Association, Lady of Fifty overcame some early trouble to win decisively (video) under jockey Martin Garcia.
Owned by George Todaro and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 3-year-old daughter of After Market prevailed by 3 ¼ lengths over 10-1 shot Open Water. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track was 1:44.36.
Out of the Maria’s Mon mare K.D.’s Shady Lady, Lady of Fifty won for the sixth time in 11 starts. The $110,000 payday increased her earnings to $320,000.
In winning for the fourth time in seven starts over a synthetic surface, Lady of Fifty, the 3-1 third choice in the field of eight, paid $8.80, $5.60 and $3.60.
Shuffled back in the opening two furlongs, Lady of Fifty found clear sailing on the outside in the stretch, gained the lead with about an eighth of a mile to run and drew away in her Betfair Hollywood Park debut.
“I wanted to take the lead, but those other horses, they kept sending and sending,’’ said Garcia, who also won the 2011 Bayakoa with Ellafitz. “I let them all go and when I finally moved out, she relaxed.
“I just kept her on the outside because I didn’t want to get into any more trouble. When I asked her to go, she just exploded. She was much the best.’’
The win was the second in three years for Hollendorfer in the Bayakoa. “She’s gotten bigger and stronger and has been training real well,’’ said the trainer, who won with another 3-year-old (Washington Bridge) in 2010. “We’re very proud of her and very pleased with the way she’s doing right now.
“Backing out of there early may have been the thing that made her win because the pace got a little rapid out front. She recovered nicely and didn’t nick herself up. We feel very fortunate for that. I don’t have a race picked out yet, but we’ll find something.’’
Returning to Cushion Track after four consecutive appearances on turf, Open Water was up to defeat 5-2 favorite Inglorious by a half-length. She paid $10.60 and $6.40. The show price on Inglorious was $3.20.
Trainer Josie Carroll thought Inglorious, the 2011 Queen’s Plate winner and 3-year-old filly champion in her native Canada, ran well in her first start since July 8. “I thought she ran a tremendous race,’’ she said. “She just got a little tired.’’
Completing the order of finish were Charm the Maker, the 5-2 second choice, who finished a half-length behind Inglorious, pacesetter Changethechannel, Willa B Awesome, Class Included and Madera Castana.
Racing will resume Sunday. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Track gates will open at 10 a.m. for simulcasts.
The main event is the inaugural running of the $200,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for 2-year-old fillies bred or sired in California. Scheduled for seven furlongs over Cushion Track, the Soviet Problem is part of the Golden State series. It is the ninth of 10 races.
The final race at Betfair Hollywood Park also begins the “405 Double.’’ The $2 minimum wager requires a bettor to pick the winners of the last local race and the first at Los Alamitos. The 405 Double will be offered next Sunday, the final day of the Autumn meet.
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