Data Link shipped in from New York for trainer Shug McGaughey and carted off the $250,000 Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Betfair Hollywood Park with an impressive late turn of foot Nov. 23 (VIDEO).
Garrett Gomez got off last year's Citation winner, Jeranimo, to ride Stuart Janney III's homebred to a 2 1/4-length victory over 2-1 choice Ultimate Eagle, who gave way in the final furlong after setting the pace. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile Citation, the opening event in Hollywood's annual Turf Festival, was 1:41 flat.
A 4-year-old colt by War Front out of the stakes winning mare Database, by Known Fact, Data Link upset the Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland in April at 12-1 odds and also captured the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) as an odds-on choice in June.
Data Link was coming off a troubled fifth-place effort behind Wise Dan in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 6 at Keeneland. He was shuffled back to the rear of the pack that day and was forced to rally while extremely wide.
Gomez, riding the bay for the first time, had the 5-2 second choice much closer to the pacesetter Ultimate Eagle in the Citation. They raced in fourth while saving ground as Ultimate Eagle, last December's Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) winner, showed the way through easy splits of :24.17, :47.87, and 1:11.87.
"He always traveled beautiful for me," Gomez said. "I felt we weren't going too fast. The only thinking I really had to do with him was from the five-eighths pole to the far turn. There were a couple of horses who were switching places (moving in and out) and I had to decide whether to stay inside or come around."
Coming off the far turn, Gomez switched Data Link to the outside and they quickly passed a couple rivals to reach even terms with Ultimate Eagle at mid-stretch. The duel was no contest, however, as Data Link drew off smartly.
"I hit the front so soon, I didn't know what he was going to be like," Gomez said. "I never gave him a chance to ease himself down. When I got into him, he really went."
Ultimate Eagle, ridden by Martin Pedroza, held second by half a length over Doubles Partner, another Eastern shipper trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Julien Leparoux. Jeranimo rallied mildly for fourth, followed by Temple's Door, Tale of a Champion, and Interaction in the seven-horse field.
The well-traveled Data Link earned his seventh lifetime win from 15 starts and increased his earnings to $673,835. In the past two years, the colt has now raced at Hollywood, Keeneland, Saratoga Race Course, Monmouth Park, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Belmont Park. He had been working steadily at Belmont since the Shadwell Turf Mile before shipping to Hollywood Nov. 20.
"We're very pleased with the way he ran today and very pleased with the way Garrett Gomez rode him," McGaughey said by phone. "They went slow early, but then they picked it up and Gomez was in a great spot. He got shuffled back last time (Shadwell Turf Mile), lost all his position and then he was wide on the turn. We think he's a pretty good little horse. He'll ship back Monday, then see we'll see how he's doing."
Data Link paid $7, $3.80, and $2.60 while keying a $23.40 exacta. Ultimate Eagle, who had not raced since the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 3 for trainer Michael Pender, obviously needed the race. He returned $4.20 and $2.80. Doubles Partner paid $2.60.