Seven starters into his training career, Bill Shoemaker picked up his first victory Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Tempest Cloud, a 2-year-old daughter of Temperence Hill making her career debut, drew away in the stetch in the fourth race, beating favored Nice Assay by nearly three lengths. A 17-1 shot ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, she returned $37.40, the same price Ferdinand paid when he gave Shoemaker his final Kentucky Derby victory in 1986.
"They tell me the first one is the toughest," Shoemaker said. "Now, we can go on from here.
"I knew she could run. She had a 59 1/5 work that didn't show in the (Daily Racing) Form. But, I didn't know if she would break because she'd been kind of mediocre coming out of the gate. I was just hoping she would run a good race and she ran big."
By rights, Shoemaker's first training victory should have come 15 days earlier. Barton Dene, who was making his first U.S. start, was third, barely beaten despite a troubled trip. Baldomero, also from Europe, had finished second in both of her outings.
"I figured if they kept running well, that one of these days they're going to get there," he said. "This has to be as big a thrill as any of the big wins I had as a rider."
Tempest Cloud, who was purchased in March for $60,000 at the California Thoroughbred Sale at Del Mar, is owned by a group that includes Shoemaker's wife, Cindy.
Richard Mandella couldn't have asked for a better ending to the $214,600 Beverly Hills Handicap.
Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest, the trainer's two entrants, finished in a dead heat. "It might be the one thing (Wayne) Lukas hasn't done," Mandella said jokingly.
There had been six previous stakes dead heats at Hollywood Park, but never had the two horses involved been trained by the same person.
To most observers, it looked as if Reluctant Guest had moved up to edge pacesetter Beautiful Melody, but the camera couldn't separate them.
Covering the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47, they finished almost two lengths in front of Stylish Star, the longest shot in the field at 12-1. Double Wedge, the 2-1 favorite, was fourth, then came Coolawin and Nikishka.
It was the second consecutive stakes victory for Reluctant Guest, a 4-year-old Hostage filly who obviously does her best work when she has plenty of time between her races. She had won the Wilshire Handicap at 17-1 May 6.
Beautiful Melody, the beaten favorite in the Gamely, was earning her first added-money victory and she hasn't finished off the board in five grass appearances.
"When it first happened, I thought Reluctant Guest had gotten up," Mandella said. "Watching the rerun, their heads were bobbing up and down so fast, I couldn't tell.
"They both ran great. I couldn't be prouder of them. I did this to try to get back in the top of the trainer standings. I was starting to slip a little bit."
Both Robbie Davis, the rider of Reluctant Guest, and Kent Desormeaux, Beautiful Melody's companion, thought they had gotten beat.
"I was hoping for a dead heat because I thought I was beat," Desormeaux said. "Mr. Mandella asked me to come away with my reins loose and my tail in the air to get her to slow down as much as possible. She's such a natural speed filly it was just a matter of nursing her home. I thought the wire would never come."
Davis has now won three races in six tries with Reluctant Guest. "I thought I won it, but when I stood up, Kent's filly was right with me and I thought I had gotten beat."
When it comes to Stalwart Charger, confidence is something trainer Pico Perdomo isn't lacking.
Perdomo has been singing the praises of the 3-year-old Stalwart gelding for several months and he feels good going into today's $160,100 Silver Screen Handicap at Hollywood Park.
So far, Stalwart Charger hasn't let his trainer down. He has won three of four starts--he was third, beaten by a neck in the other--and was impressive winning the California Derby in his last start April 21 at Golden Gate Fields.
After being pressed through some extremely fast splits--44 4/5 for the half-mile and 1:08 3/5 for six furlongs--he kept finding more and won by a bit more than two lengths in 1:46 4/5 for the 1 1/8 miles.
"I don't think any horse in the country could have beaten him that day," said Perdomo while watching Stalwart Charger school in the paddock Saturday afternoon. "He was at his peak that day.
"He's doing super and he's fit as he can be for this race, but there's no question that he'll be even better for the Swaps (July 22).
"I was confident from the first time I breezed him that he was different from any horse I've ever been around. He showed me right from the start he was something special and you know when you have something good."
Laffit Pincay, who has been working owner Sidney Factor's horse recently, will be his rider for the first time in the Silver Screen, at 1 1/8 miles. Alex Solis rode Stalwart Charger in his first two races, then Roberto Gonzalez was aboard for his two victories up north.
The other entrants in the Grade III race are Music Prospector, who was second in the California Derby before finishing a distant fourth in the Preakness; Kentucky Jazz; Big Bass, who will be adding blinkers; Toby Jug, and Warcraft, who returns to the dirt after disappointing as the favorite in the Cinema Handicap.
Might Be Right, who lost 20 of his first 21 races, turned things around in a big way in his first outing for trainer Bill Spawr. Claimed for $20,000 May 26, the 4-year-old Herculean colt beat allowance rivals while covering six furlongs in 1:08 4/5. The margin was 1 1/4 lengths over favored Candyman Bee and he was geared down in the final yards by Pat Valenzuela.
Considering Might Be Right hadn't won since 1988, it seemed a strange claim by Spawr.
"I thought he had more ability than he'd shown, so I thought I'd take a shot," he said. "I think he'll improve off this race. I think he's a pretty good horse."
Horse Racing Notes
Turn Tothe Past, a 3-year-old maiden making his second start, equaled the track record for seven furlongs when he won the sixth race in 1:20 4/5. A son of Turn to Mars, Turn Tothe Past was ridden by Dave Patton, is owned by Ed Delaplane and trained by Fidel Cardiel. . . . The last stakes dead heat at Hollywood Park involved Retsina Run and Capture Him in the Premiere Handicap April 24, 1985. . . . Beautiful Melody, the 9-2 fourth choice, paid $5.40 to win while Reluctant Guest, a 3-1 shot, paid $4.60. . . . There's a Pick Six carryover for today of $103,663.44.