INGLEWOOD, Calif. (October 3, 2010)—Running beyond seven furlongs for the first time, Rigoletta, a 32-1 shot, turned the tables on favored Tell a Kelly to win the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes Sunday at Oak Tree/Hollywood Park.
The Oak Leaf was the first of two Grade I’s that wrapped up the first week of the inaugural Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet.
One race later, Champ Pegasus, the 8-5 choice, outfinished Where’s the Remote and six others to take the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Presented by TVG.
Third, beaten 6 ¾ lengths by Tell a Kelly in the Darley Debutante Sept. 4 at Del Mar, Rigoletta became the highest priced winner in Oak Leaf history.
The 2-year-old Florida bred daughter of Concerto and the Montbrook mare Almost Aprom Queen returned $67.40, $11.40 and $4.60 for owner Thor-Bred Stable LLC.
Cut Class had held the record, paying $63.60 when she won as a part of an entry in 1974.
Trained by Dan Hendricks, who was earning his first victory in the Grade 1, Rigoletta rallied directly outside of Tell a Kelly and jockey David Flores did some race riding, keeping the 1-2 choice in some tight quarters during the stretch run.
At the finish, Rigoletta prevailed by a half-length. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track was 1:44.03.
“I just tried to put her in a good position,’’ said Flores after his fourth Oak Leaf victory, one fewer than leader Chris McCarron. “She was in the bridle the whole way.
“Tell a Kelly bumped her and it got her into the race more…she got aggressive and fought back. I thought I was going to get beat, but that (bump) seemed to make her madder.
“Dan told me to ride with confidence and I think had her in the perfect spot. I’m very proud of her.’’
Hendricks said he would like to run Rigoletta, who has won two of four and earned $210,820, to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. She earned a spot in the field as the Oak Leaf was one of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In’’ races.
Tell a Kelly, who had a two race win streak snapped, is also being pointed to the Juvenile Fillies, according to trainer John Sadler. She paid $2.60 and $2.10. The show price on Indian Gracey was $4.
“The reason I tried to go between horses is that she wasn’t going to go by the one in front (Indian Gracey) and I didn’t think I had enough horse to go around,’’ said Alonso Quinonez, Tell a Kelly’s rider. “She was working real well and everything set up perfectly for her, but we really didn’t have any excuses.’’
Ahead of only Where’s the Remote with a quarter of a mile to run, Champ Pegasus finished strongly on the outside in the closing yards to win the Hirsch.
Owned by breeders Diamond A Racing Corporation and Arturo Vargas and trained by Richard Mandella, the 4-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus colt and the Salt Lake mare Salt Champ won by three-quarters of a length.
The win was the second in a row and fourth in eight starts for Champ Pegasus. Ridden by Joel Rosario, he increased his earnings to $358,520. The final time for the 1 ¼ miles was 2:01.21.
Now 2-for-4 on the grass at Hollywood Park, Champ Pegasus paid $5.40, $3.40 and $2.40.
Where’s the Remote, making his graded stakes debut for owner Greg Unruh and trainer Mike Mitchell, paid $6.40 and $3.40. Bourbon Bay, the 2-1 second choice making his initial start in some 5 ½ months, returned $2.60 to show. He wound up a neck behind Where’s the Remote and a neck in front of pacesetter and stablemate Marlang.
“He just kind of keeps improving and getting better as we go,’’ said Mandella after his fifth Hirsch victory., “We’ll probably have to get a little bit better than this to win the Breeders’ Cup (Turf on Nov. 6).
“He showed that style at Del Mar (when winning the Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 29) that he was kind of believing in himself to do it.’’
Rosario, who collected his first win in a race named in honor of one of Oak Tree’s founders and its longtime president, thinks better days are ahead for Champ Pegasus.
“He’s getting better every time,’’ he said. “I worked him the other morning and he went great, like he was really ready to go. He surprised me today the way he moved turning for home. I’m pretty excited about him.’’
Earlier in the program, favored Mother Ruth led throughout en route to a 4 ½ length victory in the $58,400 Louis R. Rowan Stakes, an ungraded event for older fillies and mares.
Trained by Bob Baffert for Zayat Stables LLC, the 4-year-old Speighstown filly out of the Colonial Affair mare Seven Four Seven won for the fifth time in 12 starts. She has earned $211,143.
Ridden by Martin Garcia, Mother Ruth completed the 6 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:16.27. She paid $5, $3.20 and $2.20.
A six day race week begins Wednesday. Post time is 1 p.m.
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