Nelson Bunker Hunt's Piensa Sonando kicked home in the final furlong under the spirited urging of ageless rider Laffit Pincay Jr. to nip Fleetstreet Dancer by a nose in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood Park Saturday.
The Chilean-bred 4-year-old son of Gallantsky, trained by Ron McAnally, completed the 1 1/8-mile event on a fast track in 1:48.43.
Sent off at 5-2 in the field of eight, Piensa Sonando was up in the final jump and paid $7, $4.60 and $3.80. Fleetstreet Dancer, who had put Daunting away in the stretch and appeared headed to victory with Tyler Baze aboard, returned $13.20 and $8. British-bred Nose The Trade, a 4-year-old making his first U.S. start, was a half-length back in third after encountering trouble and making a bold move when clear in the stretch for jockey David Flores.
The 55-year-old Pincay allowed Piensa Sonando, who was coming off an optional claiming allowance win in his second U.S. start at Santa Anita Oct. 24, to relax behind a moderate pace of :23.48 and :47.35 established by Gentle Giant and Daunting. Sitting third in midstretch but several lengths behind Fleetstreet Dancer and Daunting, Pincay put the winner into an all-out drive to the wire. It took an enormous effort.
"That was a phenomenal ride Laffit gave him," McAnally said. "He's unbelievable, 55 years old, soon to be 56. Every time I see him ride I tell a few guys, 'he rides anything anytime, 50-1 shots, 20-1 shots, maiden claimers.' Laffit is the greatest."
Pincay, who begins a five-day suspension for an earlier riding infraction, was making his final start of the Hollywood Park Fall Meeting, which he led until yesterday.
"I wanted to win a race today and especially for this stable," said Pincay, who won his fourth Native Diver, including the first running in 1979 on Life's Hope. "I was having a rough day (with five seconds). He made it for me.
"That was a nice way to finish my year here," he said. "(Piensa Sonando) is improving all the time. He's very sound and tries hard, but he's got some bad habits. He likes to get in, and I have to be careful about that. Like today I thought I had the race won pretty easy the way he was moving, but he switched leads at the wrong time. It was close to the wire and he kind of lost his punch. But he kept trying, which was good, and he still won."
Pincay, racing's all-time win leader with 9,478 victories, is second in the Hollywood Park standings with 31 wins. He'll be 56 on Dec. 29.
Euchre, the Bobby Frankel-trained entry, was the 9-5 favorite, but did not threaten after moving into fifth on the outside and flattening out.
Second in three Group I races in Chile, Piensa Sonando won for the fifth time in his 15-race career. With the $60,000 winning purse he has a bankroll of $145,500.