INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Dec. 12, 2009) — Mast Track, whose last win came here in the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup, used the same tactics as he scored a front-running victory under jockey Rafael Bejarano in Saturday’s $100,000 Native Diver Handicap on a rainy afternoon at Hollywood Park.
Mast Track, previously owned by Bobby Frankel, gave the late Hall of Fame trainer his third Gold Cup victory in 2008 as he led all the way to post a 10-1 upset. Frankel, who died from lymphoma on Nov. 16, became the first person to breed, own and train a Gold Cup winner when Mast Track connected.
The victory Saturday snapped a nine-race winless streak dating to the Gold Cup for Mast Track, who covered 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track in 1:50.53. He was saddled by Frankel’s assistant of 35 years, Humberto Ascanio, who officially took over the stable’s horses after Frankel’s death.
Ascanio, who saddled Mast Track on Gold Cup Day 2008 as Frankel was with his New York-based string, was confident of a big effort Saturday.
“When you have the horses, it makes your job much easier,” Ascanio said. “At Del Mar, he ran a real game race in the San Diego (Handicap), then in the Pacific Classic I thought he was going to run real big. But when he broke out of the gate he stumbled and grabbed his shoe. He almost finished the race with no shoes. When he makes the lead he gets real brave. Rafael did a great job today. I told him just to break and try to go and if someone else wants the lead play follow the leader.”
Mast Track, a 5-year-old bay son of Mizzen Mast, won for the sixth time in 20 starts, finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of High Court Drama. Favorite Neko Bay was another neck back in third, while Tres Borrachos finished fourth after pressing Mast Track much of the way. Square Eddie was last in the field of older horses, which was reduced to five with the scratch Saturday morning of three-time Hollywood Gold Cup winner Lava Man.
When Tres Borrachos put a little extra pressure on the leader on the far turn, Mast Track pulled away with little urging from Bejarano. In the stretch he was not seriously threatened as the race was for second money.
“When he’s on the lead he’s got more heart than when he comes from behind,” Bejarano said. “I saw the number three (Garrett Gomez on Square Eddie) break on top, but then he took hold a little bit to try to get some traction. So I was able to make the lead and keep the rail. I was pretty comfortable after that.”
Mast Track, making his first start for Stronach Stables, banked $60,000 to boost his earnings to $922,822. He paid $8.20, $4.80 and $2.60 as the third choice. High Court Drama returned $5.40 and $2.80, while the show payoff on Neko Bay was $2.10.
Mast Track became the third graded winner saddled by Ascanio since he became the trainer of record. He saddled a pair of Grade I winners in late November — Fluke in the Citation Handicap and Ventura in The Matriarch.
Lava Man, who matched Native Diver with three straight Gold Cup wins from 2005-2007, was scheduled to come out of retirement after 16-plus months, but plans called for him to be scratched if rain fell.
“There is no urgency to run,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who also had High Court Drama and Square Eddie in the Native Diver. “We’ve been waiting a long time, now we will wait until Santa Anita.”
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