Centralinteligence could be bound for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) after he swept past pacesetter Comma to the Top en route to his first stakes win June 29 in the $250,750 Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
The seven-furlong Triple Bend is a "Win & You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge race for the Dirt Mile, which will be contested at Santa Anita Park this fall. Centralinteligence, a 5-year-old Smarty Jones gelding trained by Ron Ellis for Amerman Racing, Bongo Racing, Elias Sabo, and Gary Finder, earned a fees-paid automatic berth with his 8-1 upset.
Sixth in last year's Triple Bend before going to the sidelines for 10 months, Centralinteligence was much the best this time while timed in a good 1:21.57 over the Cushion Track with Victor Espinoza aboard. Comma to the Top was 3 1/2 lengths back in second, with Morning Line running on nicely for third.
This was the third start of the year for Centralinteligence, who ran second to Comma to the Top in the six-furlong Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) in his most recent try May 27. Centralinteligence was the least accomplished runner in the Triple Bend, a race that included six grade I winners, but was coming into the race in good form for Ellis.
"This is what we planned for all meet,'' said Ellis, who earned his first Triple Bend win. "It was nice that he put it all together for us on the right day.
"He ran so poorly in this race last year because he came out of it with a chip in his knee, so he certainly had a good excuse. He had surgery and they actually pulled two chips out of his right front leg.''
Ellis, who also saddled fifth-place finisher Rail Trip, said the chestnut will be pointed towards the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) rather than the Dirt Mile.
"This was our test today to show if he was good enough to keep pace with some good sprinters,'' he said. "You won't see him run again until the fall meet at Santa Anita.''
Patricia L. Chapman bred Centralinteligence out of the Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars. His last victory came in an allowance race at Santa Anita in March 2012.
Jimmy Creed , winner of the Malibu (gr. I) at seven furlongs as well as the Potrero Grande (gr. II) in his two most recent starts at Santa Anita, was made the 3-2 favorite in the field of eight. The field also included defending Triple Bend winner Camp Victory.
But Comma to the Top took command early as Cyclometer, Centralinteligence, and Jimmy Creed tracked through fractions of :22.63 and :45.18. Jimmy Creed, after an early move, fell out of contention in upper stretch. Comma to the Top was beginning to weaken as they reached the furlong pole in 1:09.06 when the streaking Centralinteligence shot past on the outside and finished impressively.
Comma to the Top, with Edwin Maldonado aboard, finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Morning Line, who was making his first start in nearly 13 months under Julien Leparoux. Drill finished fourth, followed by Rail Trip, Cyclometer, Camp Victory, and Jimmy Creed, the 122-pound highweight.
Centralinteligence, with a record of 4-3-1 in 12 starts, has now earned $308,921 with the $150,000 winner's share. He notched his first win in three starts at seven furlongs.
Espinoza, who rode Centralinteligence for the first time in the Los Angeles, collected his fifth Triple Bend victory. His earlier wins came with Elaborate (2000), Disturbingthepeace (2002), Pohave (2004) and Zensational (2009).
"He was ready today,'' said Espinoza. "He was ready to go. The race set up very well, the way I wanted. He performed to our expectations.''
Carrying 114 pounds, Centralinteligence paid $19, $9.20, and $6.60 as the fifth choice. Comma to the Top, winner of three of his four prior outings, returned $5.80 and $4.40 while completing a $79.60 exacta. Morning Line paid $8.40 to show.
Tres Borrachos scratched.