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Jockey Corey Nakatani holds up 3 fingers for Lava Man's third win in the Hollywood Gold Cup
Thanks to Marcie Heacox for her photos!
The $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) features the best older horses on the west coast. An on-track crowd of 9,276 was on hand at Hollywood Park for this 1 1/4 mile main track feature contested under sunny skies and warm temperatures. Nine entered this year's edition, with 2-time winner Lava Man sent off as the slight 7-5 favorite, having finished second in the Charlie Whittingham Handicap last time out. In to challenge him was 8-5 second choice Molengao, winner of the Mervyn Leroy in his last start, and 5-1 third choice A.P. Arrow from the Todd Pletcher barn, shipping in from New York where he finished third in the Birdstone last time out.
Lava Man was in second as they pass by the first time in the Hollywood Gold Cup
9-1 A.P. Xcellent was sharpest out of the gate and was allowed an uncontested lead early through slow fractions of 24.19, 48.75, 1:13.35, and 1:37.94. Jockey Corey Nakatani kept Lava Man within 2 1/2 lengths of the pacesetter the whole way around, with A.P. Arrow sitting just behind him. Entering the stretch, A.P. Xcellent continued to lead but Lava Man had hit his best stride and had closed the gap to just a head. The pair battled for the length of the stretch but at the finish, Lava Man got his nose down first to get the win in 2:03.21 over the fast track. It was just 3/4 length back to 25-1 Big Booster in third, and then a long 4 1/2 lengths to second choice Molengao and 51-1 longest shot Porfido who dead-heated for fourth. A.P. Arrow faded late to finish sixth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 8 Lava Man Nakatani 4.80 3.00 2.10 2 A.P. Xcellent Smith 7.40 4.80 9 Big Booster Baze 8.40 Winning Time: 2:03.21 $1 Exacta 8-2 18.70 $1 Trifecta 8-2-9 185.90 $1 Superfecta 8-2-9-4 1033.10Results Chart
Lava Man heads for the winner's circle after tying Native Diver's record for consecutive Hollywood Gold Cup wins with three. Winning co-owner Steven Kenly said, "This meant a lot. To tie a record like that is something. This was a race that kind of defined him two years ago when he burst on the scene. We were happy to be in this race two years ago." Co-owner Jason Wood added, "He's done so much and every time he does it, you're like, 'Wow, that's crazy,' and then he does something more. So here we sit, three-peat of the Gold Cup. If we weren't a part of him, we'd appreciate him because we're racing fans. He is such a draw. The fan support is unbelievable." Asked where he would go next, Wood said that a title defense in the Pacific Classic is the target, adding, "I hate traveling and apparently he does too." Trainer Doug O'Neill was not at the track, as he was away on vacation with his family in Ireland.
Left: Second place finisher A.P. Xcellent returns after the race.
Right: Third place finsher Big Booster in the post parade.
Out of Control, winner of the 2007 American Invitational Handicap in the post parade
6-1 Willow O Wisp was quickest out of the gate and battled on the front end with The Tin Man through fractions of 24.33, 48.38, and 1:11.88, while Out of Control stalked the pace close up in third and out four wide. Entering the lane, Willow O Wisp faded to eventually finish last, allowing The Tin Man a brief taste of the lead but Out of Control was closing the gap with every stride. The pair battled for the last furlong but Out of Control prevailed at the line, getting his head out in front in a time of 1:46.89. It was just 1/2 a length back to 36-1 longest shot Fast and Furious.
Second place finisher The Tin Man in the paddock
Winning jockey Michael Baze said, "He was a little rank the first few jumps and then I was just trying to get him to follow The Tin Man the whole way. At the quarter pole both horses were digging in hard and I was trying to keep him there because I know how much heart The Tin Man has." Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel said, "After watching him race on both the turf and dirt it's clear that he is a much better on the grass. We've been working him a bit slow in his recent workouts but he proved he was a winner today. When you beat a horse like The Tin Man it really shows the kind of heart this horse has."
Victor Espinoza, aboard second place finisher and beaten favorite The Tin Man said, "It's kind of a big difference when you're carrying 10 pounds more than the other horse. Especially at a mile and one-eighth. He ran so hard, he didn't want to get beat. The last eighth of a mile, I thought I got it, but the last few strides were a little bit too much for him." Trainer Richard Mandella added, "The horse had a perfect trip, and we have no excuses. It just wasn't good enough to give that guy 10 pounds today, that's all."
The Golden Noodle winning the 2007 Landaluce Stakes
Winning trainer Jack Van Berg said, "She ran by them like they were broke down and won much more impressive than even I thought she could." It was the 71-year-old Hall of Famer's first major stakes win since 1992.
Winning jockey Clinton Potts added, "Ever since I was three years old, I wanted to win a race for (Van Berg) and I finally got it done. He said, 'Take her back and run them down late.' He was right."
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