HOLLYWOOD PARK : Slow Pace Perfect for Double Wedge
A victory in a Grade I race didn’t appear to be in Double Wedge’s future earlier this year.
After finishing a distant second to stablemate General Charge in her first start of 1990, the 5-year-old Northern Baby mare finished seventh and fifth in her next two races.
Obviously, whatever was troubling her before isn’t anymore.
A troubled third, beaten by a head at 30-1, by Brown Bess and Royal Touch in the Santa Barbara Handicap and second to Petite Ile in Golden Gate’s Yerba Buena, Double Wedge scored her first victory in more than a year Sunday in the $107,700 Gamely Handicap.
Against a field that wasn’t Grade I quality, the 5-2 second choice was last early behind the slow pace, then accelerated when moved outside by Robbie Davis and won by two lengths over 6-1 shot Stylish Star. Double Wedge covered the 1 1/8 miles on the turf in 1:47 4/5.
“I think she was horsing (ovulating) at the beginning of the year,” trainer Bobby Frankel said.
“She’s always been a mare who horses a lot. Even in her race up north last time, she wouldn’t go to the gate and she was tough to saddle. Today, she was perfect.
“When she first came over here (from Europe), she acted like she could really run. Then, she had some ankle problems and went sour. She’d run a good race, then her form would go bad. So we turned her out and she’s come back really good this year.”
The victory was the fourth in 20 lifetime starts for owner Edmund Gann’s mare and gave Davis two Grade I winners in seven days. He won the Mervyn LeRoy with Super May the previous Sunday.
“She wasn’t that far off the pace and I felt that if she was going to win, she could win right from where she was,” Davis said.
“Turning for home, she was right on target with about a length to make up and she did it with ease. She’s a nice mare and she’s really come into her own this year. Hopefully, she’ll keep running like she is.”
Stylish Star was a head better than Beautiful Melody, the 3-2 favorite. Beautiful Melody’s performance had rider Chris McCarron questioning his tactics.
“Maybe I slowed it down too much,” he said after Beautiful Melody led with fractions of 23 4/5, 47 4/5 and 1:11 4/5. “She didn’t respond the same as she did last time. She didn’t have the same kick for me today.”
Estrella Fuega, Dearly Loved and Mamma Rosita completed the order of finish.
Memorial Day will be a busy one for Team Lukas.
Pimlico Special winner Criminal Type will face Easy Goer and Housebuster in the Metropolitan Mile and Real Cash is the 7-2 third choice on the morning line for the $500,000 Jersey Derby at Garden State Park.
The boss of the operation, Wayne Lukas will stay home, however, to saddle Steinlen in the $500,000 Hollywood Turf Handicap today at Hollywood Park.
Lukas hopes the long weekend ends the way it began. His Stella Madrid won the Acorn Saturday at Belmont and Profit Key romped in the Peter Pan Sunday.
Steinlen, the 1989 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top grass performer, has lost two of his first three starts this year. Most recently, he was third, two lengths by winner Golden Pheasant in the John Henry Handicap.
In that meeting, the 7-year-old Habitat horse had to carry six pounds more than Golden Pheasant, the probable favorite in today’s 1 1/4-mile Grade I race. This time, he will carry only two pounds more (124-122). “I think that’s realistic,” said Lukas, who will also have a new rider for Steinlen. Laffit Pincay will replace Jose Santos, who will be aboard Criminal Type in New York.
“Steinlen needed that race where we scratched him (last month’s Shoemaker Handicap). That was a great spot for him and when he got into the tough one (the John Henry) he wasn’t quite ready. He should run well Monday.”
The horse to catch in the Turf Handicap will be Hawkster, who will be ridden for the first time by Gary Stevens. Pat Valenzuela was taken off Hawkster after angering trainer Ron McAnally when Valenzuela backed out of a commitment to ride Music Merci in the Pimlico Special.
Third in the San Juan Capistrano, Hawkster wasn’t really allowed to utilize his speed that day. He was rank and appeared to resent being restrained. The son of Silver Hawk is much more effective when he is allowed to runearly. He, like Golden Pheasant, will carry 122 pounds.
Pay The Butler, who would have been favored to win last Saturday’s Rolling Green Handicap, skipped that one in favor of the Turf Handicap. Second to Hawkster in the Oak Tree Invitational and third in the Japan Cup, the 6-year-old Val de l’Orne horse scored in his comeback May 3. Eddie Delahoussaye will ride for Frankel.
Prized’s defection from the Turf Handicap was a factor in Frankel’s decision to stay in Inglewood.
“Third is worth $75,000 and I know (Pay The Butler) likes this turf course,” he said. “I breezed him the other day (five furlongs in 59 2/5 Friday) and he went well.”
The other entrants are Delegant, who won the San Juan Capistrano at 18-1, and Santangelo, who was sixth last week in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on the dirt.
Second to Housebuster in the Withers May 9, Profit Key drew away from Country Day and six others in the Peter Pan at Belmont Sunday, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 1/5. The 6-5 favorite won by 6 1/2 lengths.
It was the fourth victory in seven starts for the Desert Wine colt, but don’t look for him in the Belmont. He wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown.
“I just got off the phone with (son and assistant trainer) Jeff and he said he ran a sensational race, as impressive as any horse we’ve had all spring,” Wayne Lukas said.
Horse Racing Notes
Gary Stevens won three times Sunday. He won the third race on favored Final Frontier, who has won six of her 10 starts; the fifth on 9-1 shot Asia, who improved immensely in his first race on Lasix; and the ninth on Silver Circus. Laffit Pincay won twice, but Pat Valenzuela continues to lead the jockey standings with 25 victories, five more than Robbie Davis and Alex Solis. . . . The sport’s all-time leading money winner, Pincay is $29,036 short of $150 million in career purse earnings. . . . Solis will be aboard Real Cash today in the Jersey Derby.