INGLEWOOD, Calif. (November 18, 2011)—Overcoming a less-than-alert start, Mr Gruff was impressive in his comeback, defeating Compari and six others in the $67,650 Night Mover Stakes Friday night at Hollywood Park.
Making his first appearance since trailing in the Al Quoz Sprint March 26 at Meydan Race Course in the United Arab Emirates, the 7-year-old Mr Greeley gelding moved up quickly after out breaking only A Jealous Woman to gain a clear advantage down the backside, then had more than enough in reserve late to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
Trained by Ron Ellis for owner Gary Broad, Mr Gruff, the 5-2 favorite, completed the six furlongs on turf in 1:08.42 under jockey Joel Rosario. In winning for the sixth time in 11 starts, he increased his earnings to $298,290.
The win was the first in two races over the Hollywood Park grass for Mr Gruff, who is out of the Clever Trick mare Ruff. A two-time winner of the Grade III San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita, Mr Gruff’s only previous local experience was a third in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile May 31, 2010.
A winner five of the six times he has been the public choice, Mr Gruff paid $7, $4.20 and $3.40.
Returning from a layoff of more than six months – he had last competed in a one mile turf allowance May 8 – Compari, who was ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano, returned $3.80 and $2.80 as the 5-2 second choice.
The 5-year-old California bred gelding finished 3 ¼ lengths clear of 8-1 shot Sirocco Strike, who has earned both of his victories sprinting over the Hollywood Park turf. The show price on Sirocco Strike, who was ridden by Martin Pedroza, was $4.60.
Completing the order of finish were St Liams Halo, Al Instante, Ash Zee, Lt. Hopeful and A Jealous Woman.
Ash Zee, a 4-year-old Exchange Rate filly, was vanned off afterward with an apparent injury to her left front leg. The stewards reported she was returned to the stable of trainer Neil Drysdale.
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela was off his mounts again Friday night. Reports say he isn’t likely to return until next weekend at the earliest while he deals with personal issues.
Racing resumes Saturday. Post time is 12:30 p.m.
The nine race program is highlighted by the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, the first Grade I of the Autumn meet.
The Graham Motion-trained Sanagas, coming off a win in the Grade III Sycamore at Keeneland, is the 2-1 favorite on Russ Hudak’s morning line. The rest of the field for the Turf Cup, which is run at 1 ½ miles, includes Bourbon Bay, Norvsky, Falcon Rock, Miss Match, Goldwaki and Ashtar.
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