INGLEWOOD, Calif. (May 8, 2010)-Making his first start in eight months in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on Saturday at Hollywood Park, Rail Trip performed like a gelding who could have a memorable 5-year-old campaign.
The 1-2 favorite in the Grade II, the son of Jump Start out of the Carson City mare Sweet Trip toyed with six foes, the initial step in a quest to defend his title in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10.
Under new jockey Rafael Bejarano, Rail Trip comfortably tracked pacesetter Tres Borrachos for most of the journey, took over the lead at the head of the stretch with minimal effort, drew clear and was in hand coming to the wire. The victory came even easier than the 3 ¼ length margin would indicate.
Trained by Ron Ellis for owners Mace and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable, Rail Trip, the 121-pound highweight, completed the 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track in 1:42.37. The win was his seventh in 10 starts – his fourth in six attempts at Hollywood Park – and boosted his earnings to $877,790.
Fifth in two previous graded stakes appearances, Sangaree finished second at 16-1. He finished 1 ¼ lengths clear of Cigar Man, the second longest shot in the field at 28-1.
Rail Trip returned $3, $2.60 and $2.10. Sangaree paid $8 and $4.60 while the show price on Cigar Man was $7.20.
In providing both his owners and trainer with their first win in the LeRoy, Rail Trip made amends for a loss in the 2009 renewal. He was second at 3-5, defeated by 1 ¼ lengths by Ball Four.
Recently named to replace Jose Valdivia, Jr., Rail Trip’s rider in his first nine starts and now a regular at Delaware Park, Bejarano was left with a tremendous first impression.“Unbelievable, he just galloped,’’ said Bejarano, who won three races for the second day in a row. “He surprised me a lot. I knew I had a lot of horse at the end. I thought I was going to win easy, but not this easy. It was really good. I think this horse is going to be the best horse around.’’
Bred in Kentucky by Donarra Thoroughbreds, Rail Trip is likely to next surface in the $150,000 Californian. A Grade II at 1 1/8 miles, it will be run for the 57th time on June 12, then comes the Gold Cup at 1 ¼ miles.
“He was still learning how to run last year,’’ said Ellis, who also won the previous race for the Siegels with favored Megastar. “He’s a much more mature horse now, physically and mentally.
“He’s filled out. He’s a fresh horse and he’s happy, but he’s got to win the Gold Cup first to say he’s better than last year. He sure acts like it with the way he has been training and acting.
“In this race last year it was the first time he had ever been behind horses and it schooled him real well. He learned a lot. He put it together each time after that.’’
Tres Borrachos, who was second behind Rail Trip in last year’s Gold Cup, faded to fourth after setting moderate fractions (24.45, 48.70 and 1:12.66 for six furlongs), then came Dakota Phone, the 4-1 second choice, Slew’s Tiznow and Art Currency.
Leading rider Tyler Baze had a pair of wins on Saturday. He holds a 20-17 advantage over Bejarano. Joel Rosario, who also won twice, is third with 13 victories.
Hollywood Park will conclude the third week of its spring-summer meet on Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m.
The prime attraction on the nine race Mother’s Day program is the $100,000 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
A Grade III at seven furlongs, the Railbird is headed by Tanda. A daughter of Sweetsouthernsaint trained by Dan Hendricks, she will be looking for her second stakes win in a row. The Florida bred won the Santa Paula, which is also a Grade III, on March 28 at Santa Anita.
Eight others are scheduled to run after the Saturday morning scratch of Stockings. The Railbird goes as the seventh.
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