INGLEWOOD, Calif. (May 4, 2013)—Even though he didn’t have a starter in the Kentucky Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert did win a graded stakes on the first Saturday of May.
Perfectly positioned throughout by jockey Martin Garcia, Liaison won for the second time in as many 2013 starts, taking the $150,250 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The1 ½ length victory in the Grade II was the first in a graded affair for Liasion since he won the Grade I CashCall Futurity Dec. 17, 2011.
The 4-year-old son of Indian Charlie and the Victory mare Galloping Gal had subsequently gone 0-for-8 in graded events – including a sixth place finish in the 2012 Kentucky Derby – prior to his LeRoy success.
Liaison wasn’t the only CashCall Futurity winner to cash in a stakes Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park. Comma to the Top, the 2010 champ in the lucrative event for 2-year-olds, captured the $80,740 Cool Frenchy Stakes earlier in the afternoon.
After stalking the pace set by 2-1 favorite – and former stablemate – Blueskiesnrainbows – for most of the trip, Liaison took over early in the stretch and kicked away under left and right-handed encouragement.
Owned by Arnold Zetcher LLC, Liaison won for the fifth time in 14 starts while completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.79. The $90,000 payday pushed his earnings to $721,794. Three of the Kentucky bred’s victories have come over Cushion Track. He has not been worse than third in five Betfair Hollywood Park starts.
Liaison paid $7.80, $4 and $2.80 while completing a natural hat trick for Baffert. The stable also won the eighth race with impressive first time starter Donelle and the ninth with 3-2 favorite Midnight Crooner.
“The (Daily) Racing Form showed there was more speed than that, but my intention was to be close,’’ said Garcia. “My horse is still learning and that it looks like that’s where he wants to be. He’s improving all the time. He out broke everybody, but I just let the inside horse take the lead and sat chilly in second. When I asked him to go, he responded. He finished the job.’’
Last for the first six furlongs in his initial outing of the year, Kettle Corn rallied for second, 2 ½ lengths in front of the Baffert-trained Guilt Trip. The 5-1 fifth choice in a field reduced to six after the scratch of Tres Borrachos, Kettle Corn paid $5.20 and $3.20. The show payoff on Guilt Trip was $2.80.
Blueskiesnrainbows wound up fourth, a half-length behind Guilt Trip. Midnight Transfer and Vagabond Shoes completed the order of finish.
In the Cool Frenchy, Comma to the Top cruised to a 1 ¾ length victory as the 2-1 favorite.
Trained by Peter Miller for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara, the 5-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding broke sharply under jockey Edwin Maldonado, disposed of challenger L.A. Weekend before a half mile had been run, kicked clear in the stretch and won with something in reserve.
Covering the five furlongs over Cushion Track in 56.90 seconds, Comma to the Top, who is out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Maggies Storm, paid $6.40, $3.60 and $2.60.
The win was the 13th in 30 starts for the Florida bred and pushed his earnings to $1,233,406. All four of his victories at Betfair Hollywood Park have come in stakes. Three of those wins occurred during the 2010 Autumn meet. Comma to the Top won the Real Quiet, Grade III Generous – on turf – and the Grade I CashCall Futurity in a span of six weeks.
“He’s just unbelievable,’’ said Miller. “I can’t say enough about this horse. He just does it all. He’s a warrior.’’
Miller added Comma to the Top could return in the Los Angeles Handicap, a Grade III at six furlongs scheduled for May 27.
Italian Rules, the 3-1 third choice, outfinished 10-1 outsider Ain’t No Other by a half-length for second and paid $3.80 and $2.80. The show price on Ain’t No Other was $4.20. Centralinteligence, the 5-2 second choice, finished fourth in his first start since he finished sixth in the Grade I Triple Bend Handicap last June 30.
The second week of the Spring/Summer meet concludes Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.
The main event on the nine race program is the $70,000-added Time To Leave Stakes. Defending champion Teddy’s Promise heads the field in the five furlong race over Cushion Track for older fillies and mares.
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