Men's Exclusive, the 9-year-old gelding who won the last two runnings of Hollywood Park's $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III), will seek an unprecedented third victory in Saturday's 22nd running of the six-furlong stakes event.
Men's Exclusive would join the legendary John Henry and Native Desert as the oldest horses ever to win a stakes race at Hollywood Park. John Henry won both the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap and the Sunset Handicap in 1984 at the age of 9. Native Desert won the Khaled Stakes last April at 9.
As Men's Exclusive attempts to strike a note for the senior community, he will be without racing's most acclaimed senior, 55-year-old jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. The world's all-time leading rider, who was aboard for the California-bred gelding's two previous Underwood victories, was committed to ride Mellow Fellow for trainer Bill Spawr. Trainer Wesley Ward named Martin Pedroza to ride Men's Exclusive.
Men's Exclusive, who drew the rail in the field of nine, will get a six-pound weight break from the co-high weights at 120 pounds, Mellow Fellow and Ride and Shine. The defending champion is winless in six starts since his 2001 Underwood victory, but Ward says the bay, owned and bred by H. E. Reed, is "ready for the battle."
Men's Exclusive, who had a bullet :47 half-mile work Wednesday, has earned $1,326,828 over his career from a 10-15-3 record in 41 starts. Included are six stakes wins.
Mellow Fellow, a 7-year-old gelding owned by Sid and Jenny Craig, was on a six-race winning streak before running third in Hollywood Park's Triple Bend Handicap (gr. III) on July 6. He has won 11 of 28 starts for earnings of $506,388.
Mellow Fellow blew out three furlongs at Hollywood Thursday in :37.60.
Ride and Shine, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding, has raced 18 times this year with three victories. The Gary Stute trainee has won two of his last three in allowance competition. With a career record of 5-8-8 in 37 starts, Ride and Shine has earned $241,529.
Ride and Shine drilled three furlongs in :35.20 Thursday at Santa Anita.$100,000 Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III), 3 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Men's Exclusive, Martin Pedroza, 114
2. Mighty David, Kent Desormeaux, 112
3. American System, Mike Smith, 116
4. Debonair Joe, Julie Krone, 112
5. Mellow Fellow, Laffit Pincay Jr., 120
6. So Urgent, Victor Espinoza, 114
7. Ride and Shine, Iggy Puglisi, 120
8. National Saint, David Flores, 114
9. FJ's Pace, Alex Solis, 116.