Gamely Stakes : Estrapade Finds Rail, Wins in Record Time
All Estrapade needed Sunday in Hollywood Park’s $100,000 Gamely Handicap was a little room to roam.
Coming around the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile turf test, Estrapade, with jockey Chris McCarron aboard, squeezed through on the rail entering the stretch and overtook leader Johnica in the final sixteenth to win in a stakes record time of 1:46 3/5.
Johnica, ridden by Pat Valenzuela, finished three-quarters of a length back in second, while Possible Mate, with Jacinto Vasquez aboard, hung on to finish third, half a length behind Johnica.
The field from third belonged to a trio of 4-year-old French fillies. Estrapade’s stablemate, Reine Mathilde, finished fourth, Envie de Rire was fifth and Tamarinda was sixth.
Estrapade not only carried the top-weight of 124 pounds but had to overcome her inside post position to break Ack’s Secret’s 1982 Gamely Stakes record time of 1:46 4/5.
“I had the one hole (the No. 1 post position), and I never had a chance to get out,” McCarron said. “They were going awful slow up front. I knew if Eddie (Delahoussaye, aboard Tamarinda) kept Pat (Valenzuela, aboard Johnica) on the rail, I would be in tough.”
In the first half-mile, Estrapade remained in the pack as Johnica, Possible Mate and Tamarinda charged ahead for the lead. Estrapade began gaining in the backstretch, but she couldn’t find a hole to move up until Johnica drifted out from the rail on the final turn.
That was all Estrapade--and McCarron--needed.
“I knew Pat’s filly likes to drift out,” McCarron said. “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
McCarron was both on Sunday. He won the sixth through the eighth races and, with Estrapade’s victory, scored his 100th stakes win at Hollywood Park. McCarron joins Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay as the only jockeys to win 100 or more stakes at the Inglewood track.
McCarron’s task was made a little easier when Adored scratched. The 5-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew had been assigned the second-highest weight (123 pounds), but was scratched Sunday morning because of a slight swelling on her left foreleg.
“She must have hit herself when she galloped on the grass the other day,” trainer Laz Barrera said. “It’s just too early in the season to risk anything.”
Of course, with Adored scratched, trainer Charlie Whittingham had the kind of a field he likes. Of the six entrants, Whittingham trains two: Estrapade and Reine Mathilde.
“This is a good filly,” Whittingham said of Estrapade. “And we haven’t seen just how good she is yet.”
After the race, Whittingham said he will keep Estrapade on the turf, which she appears to prefer to the dirt. In April, she battled Prince True to the wire for a second-place finish in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap, the longest Grade I turf race in North America. Estrapade scored another impressive turf victory in the Santa Ana Handicap, winning by six lengths.
“You mustn’t hold that dirt race against her,” Whittingham said, refering to the Santa Margarita Handicap in which Estrapade was distanced. “She bled. But we’ll keep her on the grass for the time being.”
Of course he will. Whittingham, the all-time leading trainer at Hollywood Park, knows a winner when he sees one.
Jockey Fernando Toro was feeling much better Sunday after suffering two broken ribs, a bruised liver and bruised right kidney when he was thrown from his mount, Chelkov, in Saturday’s seventh race. Toro, 44, was moved out of intensive care Sunday and into a private room at Centinela Hospital Medical Center. He is expected to remain hospitalized for four to five days.