HOLLYWOOD PARK : Individualist Proves That Records Mean Little in Underwood Sprint
The horse with the worst 1991 record won the $109,500 Vernon O. Underwood Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park.
It had taken Individualist 11 tries to win a race this year, with seven second- or third-place finishes. On Saturday, however, the 4-year-old gelding and his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, lurked in the background while a lively pace developed for the lead, and through the stretch Individualist had enough real estate left to beat Thirty Slews by a head.
Cardmania, the French import who was third in his American debut, ran third again Saturday, a length behind Thirty Slews and 3 1/2 ahead of Frost Free, the 3-2 favorite and winner of the Underwood a year ago, before 12,692.
Individualist, bred and owned by John and Betty Mabee, was clocked in 1:08 4/5 for the six furlongs. The track record of 1:08 was set in 1989 by Sam Who, who was fifth in a grass sprint that preceded the Underwood.
Individualist earned $64,500, giving Desormeaux his third winner of the day and the 1,995th in a career that started in 1986. Desormeaux, 21, won his first race at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana and might become the youngest jockey to reach the 2,000 mark.
Individualist, paying $17 to win, went over the $400,000 mark in earnings. Desormeaux was aboard at Del Mar in August for the horse’s last victory, in a $75,000 claiming race, and they teamed to win the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood a year ago.
Desormeaux and Individualist’s trainer, David Hofmans, barely missed another victory together in the first race when Wild Tech lost a photo finish to Deciphering.
“I wasn’t confident that we’d won it until we hit the wire,” Desormeaux said. “And then, when I came back and everybody was asking me if I won it, I began to wonder whether we did.”
Thirty Slews, who has been sharp in three races since returning from an eight-month layoff, looked like a winner when he shook off Media Plan at the top of the stretch. Individualist was in the center of the track, three lengths behind Thirty Slews, with an eighth of a mile to go.
“My horse was trying at the end,” said Laffit Pincay, Thirty Slew’s rider. “The other horse was just a bit stronger.”
Individualist’s best distance is slightly beyond six furlongs, and Hofmans and Desormeaux debated about running him Saturday.
“He loves this track,” Hofmans said. “Speed hadn’t been staying the last couple of days, and this looked like the kind of race (in which) a front-runner could come back (to the field). Thirty Slews ran a great race.”
Trainer John Sadler had scratched Valiant Pete because he drew the inside post, and as it turned out, Sadler’s Frost Free wound up on the inside and that probably was a factor. Horses breaking from No. 1 have won only 10% of the dirt sprints at the meeting.
Chris McCarron, idle for three days because of flu, returned to action Saturday and rode Frost Free.
“He didn’t have the best of trips,” Sadler said. “He’s not familiar with being down on the inside behind horses, and he wasn’t aggressive the way he usually is.”
Longshot French Seventyfive rallied from seventh place to finish one length ahead of Forty Niner Days Saturday in the $250,000 Bay Meadows Handicap. The race was telecast into Hollywood Park and French Seventyfive paid $21.80 there, compared to $23 at Bay Meadows.
French Seventyfive, winless in six stakes this year, is trained by Jack Van Berg and was ridden by Gary Boulanger. Forty Niner Days, who had the lead turning for home, was a neck better than Batshoff, the 5-2 favorite. French Seventyfive earned $137,500 to send his purses over $365,000. His owners are Homer Noble of San Diego and E.K. Gaylord II of Oklahoma City, Okla.
“This horse has had a lot of bad luck,” Van Berg said. “He got beat by a head in the Cal Cup Mile (at Santa Anita) and was seven wide while Shirkee won it and got through every step of the way.
“In his first start on turf (at Hollywood Park in June), he had no chance, and turning for home I was ready to walk away. But he got up to win by a head, and right there I knew he was a damn good horse.”
French Seventyfive’s grass record is three wins and three seconds in six starts. His time Saturday for about 1 1/8 miles was 1:49 2/5. After the first three, the order of finish, were Chief’s Image, Free at Last, Diable Au Corps, Rudy’s Fantasy, Rushing Raj and Spanish Pistol.
Corey Nakatani, who rode Forty Niner Days, said his horse might have been softened up for the late running when Spanish Pistol challenged them early.
Miss Alleged is the 2-1 morning line favorite for today’s $500,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, according to Russ Hudak, the Hollywood Park linemaker.
Hudak lists Itsallgreektome at 5-2 and Quest for Fame at 3-1. Then the odds rise to 5-1 on Eternity Star.
“I considered making Itsallgreektome the favorite, but Miss Alleged has been working so impressively that I finally went to her,” Hudak said. “It’s more than a three-horse race. There’s no pace, it’s a small field (seven horses) and several of them can win it.”
Of the 90 horses that ran in the seven Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2, Miss Alleged was the only one who was winless this year, and she beat Itsallgreektome by a half-length in the $2-million Turf Stakes.
Richard Mandella has trained some horses for Issam Fares, but several days after the Breeders’ Cup, Charlie Whittingham’s phone rang and Fares’ farm manager asked him if he would take Miss Alleged. There was no pause at Whittingham’s end of the connection.
Asked about Fares, Whittingham said: “I don’t know the man. I wouldn’t know him if he was standing next to me.”
It’s Whittingham’s understanding that Miss Alleged will remain in training after today and resume her career at Santa Anita’s winter meeting.
Horse Racing Notes
A filly has never won the Hollywood Turf Cup. . . . Laffit Pincay, the only jockey to ride in all 11 previous runnings of the stake, seeks his first victory today with Tidemark, an English colt who has been second and fourth in two American starts. . . . Charlie Whittingham, with 23 starters, has won the stake twice, with Providential II and Frankly Perfect.
No favorites won Saturday at Hollywood, and with no one hitting the Pick Six in the last two days, the carryover pool is $195,000. . . . Individualist gave David Hofmans and Kent Desormeaux their first stakes victories of the meeting.