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Just Wonder Proves Wondrous

Times Staff Writer

Jockey Kent Desormeaux’s first day back at Hollywood Park turned out well.

Based in Japan for the last couple of months, Desormeaux teamed with 3-1 second choice Just Wonder for a come-from-behind victory in the $184,550 Cinema Breeders’ Cup Handicap on Sunday.

This was the second year in a row Desormeaux rallied from last to win the Grade III for 3-year-olds. In 2002, he and the Bobby Frankel-trained Inesperado prevailed by a nose over Regiment.

Owned by a partnership that includes Berry Gordy’s Vistas LLC and Marsha Naify and trained by Laura De Seroux, Just Wonder, an English-bred son of Hernando, trailed for the first six furlongs.

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By the time the field reached the eighth pole, however, he had looped his seven rivals and opened up a two-length advantage. At the finish, he had three-quarters of a length on runner-up Bis Repetitas, a 9-1 shot, and completed the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.41.

Desormeaux, who also spent time riding in Japan last year, will remain in California for several days and has mounts in some of the various stakes that will be run in Inglewood over the holiday weekend. He’ll then head back to Japan before returning for Del Mar, which begins July 23.

“As we fell into the final turn, I was last and hadn’t moved an inch yet,” Desormeaux said. “At that point, some of the others started coming back to me and my horse was starting to pull harder.

“So, I just wheeled him out and let him go. When we cornered and straightened away, I encouraged him and he took off even faster. This is a very talented horse.”

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This was the fourth victory in seven starts for Just Wonder and his second in a row. He had defeated a lesser field in the Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows on May 10.

Private Chef, the 6-5 favorite because of a victory at 6-1 in his turf debut in the Will Rogers Stakes on May 25, was a troubled fourth, nearly six lengths behind the winner.

“I never was able to find a place to go,” said Victor Espinoza, Private Chef’s rider. “Nothing opened, nothing at all.”

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Disqualified out of a victory in the inaugural American Oaks last year, De Seroux will try again in the $750,000 race with Liska and Golden Nepi.

De Seroux trains Dublino, who was cited for bothering Megahertz in the stretch in last year’s Oaks and moved from first to second.

Liska worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 on the Hollywood Park turf course Sunday morning. Owned by Vistas Stable, Naify and Robert Geringer, Liska won one of three starts in France.

Golden Nepi, bred in Ireland, was last seen winning a Group II in Italy on April 27.

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Those two 3-year-old fillies are among 14 scheduled to run Saturday in the 1 1/4-mile race. The other probables are Achnasheen, Dimitrova, Fortuitous, Gal O Gal, Atlantic Ocean, Go For Glamour, Meridiana, Personal Legend, Sand Springs, Santa Catarina, Star Vega and Welcome Millenium.

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Feline Story, the 3-1 second choice, easily defeated 1-2 favorite Unbridled Beauty and four other 2-year-old fillies in the $108,300 Astoria Stakes on Sunday at Belmont Park.

Ridden by Jorge Chavez for owner Einar Robsham and trainer Stanley Hough, the Tale Of The Cat filly won by four lengths in 1:05.14 for the 5 1/2 furlongs.

Purchased for $140,000 at a sale in Florida in March, Feline Story led throughout and is now perfect in two races. She had broken her maiden by 11 1/2 lengths over a sloppy track June 4.

Favored on the strength of a dominating win in her debut at Churchill Downs on May 26, Unbridled Beauty finished nearly nine lengths in front of 9-2 third choice Dixie Waltz, then came Bagitdon’tchargeit, Loving Lucy and Prudencia. Unbridled Beauty’s loss means trainer Wayne Lukas remains winless at the Belmont Park meet.

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For the second week in a row, there will be a pick six carryover at Hollywood Park when racing resumes Wednesday.

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Thanks to upsets by Forlaan in the fifth, Houston’s Prayer in the seventh and Para Usted in the ninth, there is a carryover of $185,118.


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