Odds-on choice Obviously was a no-doubt winner of the $150,000 American Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Betfair Hollywood Park turf May 25, taking the lead shortly after the start and putting the field away in the lane en route to a 2 1/2-length tally (VIDEO).
With Joe Talamo aboard for trainer Mike Mitchell, Irish-bred Obviously posted his third grade II victory since last summer for owners Anthony Fanticola and Joe Scardino.
Obviously was timed in a sharp 1:32.95 for the one-mile distance on firm going. Lucayan, winner of the 2012 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I), or French Two Thousand Guineas, rallied for second in his first start in the United States for trainer Neil Drysdale. Barocci was third in the field of six older horses.
"He's a jockey's dream," said Talamo, Obviously's only rider since last June. "You just sit on him and he does the rest. He's just a tremendous horse."
The winner is a 5-year-old gelding by Choisir out of Montjeu mare Leala bred by Deidre Cogan. The speedy mile specialist won last August's Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Arroyo Seco Mile Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 6 at Santa Anita Park. His next start came in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita, where he set a rapid pace before giving way in deep stretch and finishing third to Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom .
Mitchell, who picked up his first American Handicap win, started Obviously back with the San Simeon Stakes (gr. IIIT) April 20 at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. Obviously was caught late to finish second after leading all the way.
"He had a nice tuneup under his belt and he went into this really good," Mitchell said. "The thing is when we first got him, my son-in-law (bloodstock agent Craig Rounsefell) picked him out and bought him. We were going to buy a different horse, but he kept saying, 'There's this horse tomorrow...'
"When they picked him out, he was totally a sprinter. We thought we had a sprinter on our hands. But when we routed him, now all of a sudden, 'Wow!' We're going to keep him at a mile, take our time with him and go for the (Breeders' Cup Mile Nov. 2 at Santa Anita) again. He'll have another race here (in the grade I Shoemaker Mile June 29).''
Speculation prior to the race was that Obviously might take back in anticipation of hot early tempo with a couple of other speed types in the starting gate. Obviously was not having it.
With the rail set at 15 feet, he jumped out to the early lead over Racing Aptitude, opening up a 1 1/2-length advantage while clipping off quarter mile splits of :23.26 and :46.09. Obviously, racing slightly off the rail, maintained his edge leaving the quarter pole in 1:09.53 as the Japanese-bred Barocci advanced along the inside to take second from Racing Aptitude.
"With him going (46.09 seconds for the first half mile) today, I almost made the sign of the cross," said Talamo. "That's like 47 4/5 for any other horse. At the three-eighths pole I just kind of gave him his head and hopefully tried to steal the race from there."
Under left-handed urging from Talamo, Obviously increased his lead to 3 1/2 lengths mid-stretch and won in complete control.
Lucayan, a little slow to start from the inside post for Julien Leparoux, used a ground-saving trip before edging out a bit in the lane and out-kicking Barocci and Victor Espinoza by a neck for second. Drill raced evenly in fourth, with Racing Aptitude and Chosen Miracle trailing.
Obviously's seventh win in 14 starts boosted his career earnings to $668,361. The consistent bay runner has been worse than third just once in his career.
The 121-pound high weight, he paid $2.80, $2.40, $2.10. Lucayan paid $4.80 and $3.60 in his first start since Oct. 6. Barocci's show price was $3.40.