An exciting Memorial Day of thoroughbred racing action at Hollywood Park was capped by Victor’s Cry (pictured) posting an upset victory in the Grade 1 $250,000 Shoemaker Mile. Sent off as a 21-to-1 long shot, the son of Street Cry covered the mile over the grass in a blistering 1:32.88, defeating favored Karelian by a head.
“Turning for home I felt like all I needed was a spot to run,” said jockey Corey Nakatani, who was making his first start of the meet after having been a main stay in Southern California for the better part of the past two decades. “They kind of squirted away and I cut the corner and was able to swing out. He made a strong move from the 3/8 pole to get position and I tried to time it the best I could to win the race.”
In his previous start, Victor’s Cry finished a fast closing second to today’s pace setter, Mr. Gruff, in the Grade 3 San Simeon, run at six-and-a-half furlongs down the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. His only two other attempts in graded stakes company came last year, and resulted in fourth and sixth place finishes in a pair of Grade 2 events run at a mile on turf.
“I have a good rapport with Corey and he figures if I’m going to bring him out here it’s not going to be a wasted trip,” said trainer Eoin Harty. “I had a lot of confidence in the horse and the jockey.”
After seeing his career derailed due to injury, Nakatani missed five months of riding in 2009 and switched his tack to the Midwest in hopes of getting a fresh start.
“I’d never been off that long. I needed to be humble and get back down to the boots and hit the ground working,” said Nakatani, who previously rode Grade 1 winner Colonel John for Harty. “We’re moving forward now and if the horses bring us back to California, we’ll be here.”
Victor’s Cry could possibly be pointed next to the Grade 2 $150,000 American Handicap on July 4th .
Earlier in the day, Evening Jewel led from start to finish under jockey Victor Espinoza, holding off Cozi Rosie by half a length to win the Grade 2 $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap for three-year-old fillies run over a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf course.
“She was a little keener today than she has been in the past so I was concerned about going to the lead,” said trainer James Cassidy. “With no speed in here, I thought if somebody else goes that’d be great, but then I told Victor, ‘She’s keen. She’s apt to take you.’ He was able to slow it down. He did say he was happy nobody went with him.”
In her previous start, Evening Jewel was nipped at the wire by Blind Luck’s nose in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, after having suffered a similar fate to her in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita earlier in the year.
“I was originally thinking about the Hollywood Oaks because she (Blind Luck) was supposed to go back East,” said Cassidy. “I see no reason for the two of them to be beating up on each other."
“Certainly she has the edge on me. Not that the horse that ran second today didn’t run a good race, but if I can avoid her I’m going to avoid her. I’m hoping one day we’ll get back together.”
Since a sixth place finish in her debut at Del Mar last summer, Evening Jewel has four wins and five second place finishes in nine starts, having excelled on dirt, synthetic, and now, turf.
“I think I’m going to swim her. That’s the only thing she hasn’t done yet is swim,” joked Cassidy. “She’s just a wonderful filly.”
The American Oaks run on July 3rd at Hollywood Park is likely her next start, followed by the Del Mar Oaks in August, and possibly the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky in October.
The first stakes race of the day featured two-year-olds going five-and-a-half furlongs over the main track in The Willard L. Proctor Memorial. The only filly in the field, Belleofthebridle, was sent off as the 1-to-5 favorite after having defeated colts in her debut by nearly six lengths, but second-time starter J P’s Gusto under jockey Joe Talamo was able to run her down in the stretch to notch his first career victory in a stakes record time of 1:02.97.
J P’s Gusto broke slowly in his debut and ended up finishing sixth in a field of ten with Joel Rosario aboard.
“We stood him every day and broke him three times,” said trainer David Hofmans of schooling his colt from the gate hoping to avoid another bad break.
Rosario opted to ride Belleofthebridle today since her jockey David Flores was riding in stakes races at Lone Star Park for trainer Craig Dollase.
“We tried to ride the best, but the other horse was best today,” said Rosario.
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