INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Compari posted a mild upset under Garrett Gomez in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes, but Rafael Bejarano stole the spotlight with a five-win afternoon Saturday on the tenth annual California Gold Rush program at Hollywood Park.
Gomez, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey the last two years who returned to town from Kentucky a half-million dollars ahead of Bejarano as the country’s leading jockey, was in jeopardy of losing the top spot as the field headed to the starting gate for the 16th running of the Snow Chief.
But the three-time money-leader quickly regained command as Compari — making just his third career start for trainer Marty Jones — set the fractions and pulled away in the stretch for a 1 ¾-length win over Triumphant Flight and Bejarano.
Gomez came right back to take the $60,000 NTRA Stakes in the nightcap, but until the late double the day belonged to the 26-year-old Peruvian who has swept the last six major Southern California riding titles.
Bejarano completed his five-win afternoon with a victory aboard Liberian Freighter in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes, coming within one win of the Hollywood Park record of six victories in a day while setting a single-day record for stakes wins. His other victories came with Waveline in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes, Bootleg Annie in the $150,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes, Tribal Justice in the $71,200 Grey Memo Stakes and Pretty Unusual in the $200,000 Melair Stakes.
His mounts earned $509,600 on the day as he closed to within $162,492 of Gomez at the top of the nation’s money list.
“I’m going to be a week away (from Hollywood Park), so I’m trying to do my best,” said Bejarano, who holds a six-win lead over Joel Rosario atop the jockeys’ standings with 12 wins through four racing days.
“Any jockey could have won with these horses,” he added. “When you have the best horse, you can do anything you want. The last five races I won, I had the best horse in each race.”
Bill Shoemaker set the Hollywood Park record of six wins with eight mounts on June 20, 1953, and also clicked with six of seven mounts on June 24, 1970. Laffit Pincay Jr. rode six winners with nine mounts on April 27, 1968, and Kent Desormeaux rode six winners with ten mounts on July 3, 1992.
Bejarano had three mounts remaining after moving to within one win of the record, but the best he could do was a pair of seconds behind Gomez in the late double.
He and trainer Barry Abrams combined to win the 1 1/16-mile Melair for the second straight year with 9-1 shot Pretty Unusual. They won through disqualification a year ago when Bel Air Sizzle was placed first. Pretty Unusual did not need any help, rallying from eighth in the final three furlongs to win by one length over Chalula One.
Al and Sandee Kirkwood’s front-running Bootleg Annie held off a determined bid by Spinning Yarns through the stretch to win the Fran’s Valentine by a length — her third straight victory. Favorite Bel Air Sizzle broke poorly and was never a threat while finishing fifth in the field of six.
J. Paul Reddam’s Waveline gained the lead from pacesetter Gambler’s Justice in mid-stretch and went on to score a 1 ¼-length while covering seven furlongs in a stake’s record time of 1:20.89 in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful. Favorite Lady Railrider finished third.
The only major-race winner not ridden by Bejarano or Gomez came when jockey Martin Garcia and trainer A.C. Avila combined for their richest Hollywood Park win with 6-1 shot Unusual Smoke in the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes. Unusual Smoke — the second winner on the card sired by Unusual Heat — has won three races and has finished second twice in five starts since being claimed for $12,500 in January.
In the Snow Chief, Gomez let Compari roll when he left the gate running.
“Marty told me I could take him back if I wanted, but I said if he breaks well and he shows me enough gas leaving there, then I’ll go ahead and see if I can get over,” said Gomez, whose mounts have earned $5.9 million this year. “Rafael was just starting to sit with Triumphant Flight and that’s when I decided to go. I got over and was able to control the race. I might have caught him flat-footed a bit.”
Compari, a homebred owned by Harris Farms, John Nicoletti and Don Valpredo, finished third in his career debut in February and broke his maiden March 29.
“We’ve always been pretty high on this horse,” Jones said. “I had him here last year getting him ready as a 2-year-old and he was working right along with Lucky Primo. We knew the distance wasn’t a problem and we knew the surface wasn’t a problem — he’s always worked good on this track. I was much more concerned about the pace than anything else. Once I saw him get to the front, I felt pretty good about it. The horse that was chasing him was a really good, hard-trying horse, but his best chance to win was how Garrett rode him. When I work him in company he always pulls real hard until he gets to the front and then he just throws his ears up and relaxes. We’re trying to get Lucky Primo ready for the Swaps and he (Compari) is right there in the mix too.”
In other races, Alex Solis guided Woman Warrior to victory for owner/trainer Bruce Headley in the $61,600 Alphabet Kisses and Victor Espinoza rode Rule the Storm to victory for trainer Genaro Vallejo in the $72,800 Warren’s Thoroughbreds.
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