The $500,000 Hollywood Turf Handicap turned out to be a showcase for one horse, but it wasn’t Bien Bien or Arcangues.
Grand Flotilla, a horse nearly risked in an $80,000 claimer for his first American start, saved ground throughout under Gary Stevens, then had the right response when a hole developed along the rail in the stretch.
Fourth, third and then second in his first three U.S. races, the 7-year-old roan drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths Monday in 1:59 1/5 for the 1 1/4 miles.
In the process, the 14-1 shot gave trainer Jenine Sahadi, 31, the biggest victory of her year-old career and was the richest for a female trainer since Dianne Carpenter won the 1988 Jim Beam Stakes with Kingpost.
Purchased by bloodstock agent Hubert Guy for owner Mike Sloan, Grand Flotilla almost didn’t run in the Turf Handicap. Sahadi was considering the Golden Gate Handicap on June 18, but because the horse is a reluctant shipper, she decided to stay at Hollywood Park.
“It took me almost an hour to get him on the van last time (shipping from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park last month), so we decided against going north,” she said. “I can’t believe it. I’m in shock. I keep thinking someone is going to tell me it didn’t happen.
“I thought I was running for second or third money. I’m sure heads are rolling in France (where Grand Flotilla raced in 1993) because this horse was not on the same level as Arcangues over there. Ever since he came here, he’s really thrived. He’s gained weight and he’s so level-headed. He’s shown tremendous improvement every race.”
Although beaten by only three-quarters of a length by Bien Bien in the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita on April 24, the margin was deceptive because Bien Bien was in hand at the wire.
“It wasn’t until Friday that they decided to go in this race, which was great with me,” Stevens said. “I’d never sat on this horse before, but I had watched him run. I thought it was basically a three-horse race with Arcangues, Bien Bien and myself, and possibly Misil.
“It was just a perfect trip. We got to save ground all the way. Then, the rail opened up for us in the lane, and he fired big.”
Bien Bien, the 4-5 favorite and co-highweight at 124 pounds, finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Blues Traveller. Kept in the clear by Chris McCarron, he joined the leaders around the turn, got the lead briefly, then couldn’t stay with Grand Flotilla in the run to the wire.
“He did everything right,” McCarron said of the 1993 Turf Handicap winner. “He just got outrun from the eighth pole to the wire. (Grand Flotilla) got lucky to get through, but that’s what it takes sometimes.”
Losing for the first time in three U.S. races, Arcangues finished fifth as the 5-2 second choice, but ran contrary to his style. On the lead after the first quarter of a mile, he was second to Blues Traveller for the next six furlongs, then tired in the final furlong. The 6-year-old Sagace horse is better from off the pace.
“He just didn’t have it today,” Eddie Delahoussaye said. “He kind of bobbled on both turns, the track is kind of soft, but that didn’t make him stop the way he did.”
Blues Traveller finished nearly three lengths ahead of Misil, the 5-1 third choice.
Horse Racing Notes
The $30.60 payoff on Grand Flotilla was the largest in the Turf Handicap since Barclay Joy paid $71.20 in 1975. . . . The on-track attendance of 37,219, largely due to a concert after the races by Gloria Trevi, was the largest at Hollywood Park since June 16, 1991, when 41,251 attended on Father’s Day. . . . Lakeway, scheduled to be shipped to New York on Wednesday to run in the Mother Goose on June 12, worked six furlongs in 1:11 2/5 Monday morning.
With favorites winning five of the races, the inaugural National Best Seven paid $190.75 (based on a 50-cent wager) locally for tickets with seven winners and $7.75 for six winners. The pool at Hollywood Park was $47,047, the national pool $371,075.50. . . . Gary Stevens will begin a five-day suspension Friday for his disqualification from first to sixth on Silent Lord in Sunday’s seventh race.