Daytona, given what trainer Dan Hendricks called "a perfect ride" by jockey Alex Solis, motored past Ever a Friend to win the $310,500 Shoemaker Mile in front of a Memorial Day crowd of 10,532 Monday at Hollywood Park.
The Irish-bred, who has won six of his last seven starts, covered the one-mile distance on the turf course in 1:33.44 to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Ever a Friend. Daytona paid $5.40 to win as the 8-5 favorite in a field of seven.
Ever a Friend, the second choice, finished a neck in front of Hyperbaric and paid $3.20 to place. Perfect Drift, the 9-year-old gelding running in his 47th race, was fourth by a length.
Ever a Friend, ridden by Tyler Baze, took the early lead, but Daytona, starting from the outside post, settled in behind him. Daytona took the lead going into the far turn and increased it in the stretch.
Hendricks, calling the race Daytona's most impressive to date, couldn't have blueprinted Solis' ride any better. "He had him relaxed the whole way," Hendricks said.
Said Solis: "I'm sure Tyler wanted to be close by me and that's why he ended up on the lead. I was glad to see that. My horse was so relaxed, at that point I felt I was in control."
Hendricks said he was pointing the 4-year-old gelding toward the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in October, where he might again face Ever a Friend.
Daytona was coming off a win in the Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 5 and a third-place finish in the $500,000 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana on March 8.
Before that were four successive wins, including one in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby in November.
The winner's circle after the Shoemaker Mile looked something like the infield at the Daytona 500. The crowd was one of the biggest veteran onlookers had seen at Hollywood Park.
Former Green Bay Packers great Willie Davis was among those in the winner's circle. He was a guest of Neil Papiano, who presented the winner's trophy. Papiano was Bill Shoemaker's longtime attorney.
In Monday's other Grade I feature, favored Precious Kitten scored a 2 1/4 -length victory over pacesetter Diamond Diva in the $283,000 Gamely Stakes.
The victory was the eighth in 21 starts for the Bobby Frankel-trained mare, who covered 1 1/8 miles on the turf course in 1:45.23. The victory was a record eighth for the Hall of Fame trainer in the Grade I event.