Nahem, under strong handling from Victor Espinoza, struck the lead in deep stretch and held off Woodmans Luck for a head victory in the $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes on the California Gold Rush program at Hollywood Park April 23 (VIDEO).
The Snow Chief, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, was the richest event on the program for California-bred horses. There were eight stakes on the card, including one split division for maiden colts and geldings, with purses totaling $845,000.
Nahem, named for the late California owner and breeder Ed Nahem (King Edward Racing Stable), was making his stakes debut at odds of 12-1 for trainer Paddy Gallagher. Bred and owned by Harris Farms and Michael and Cory Wellman, the gelded son of Bertrando--Miss Bev Hills, by Moscow Ballet, made a successful transition from the Santa Anita turf to Hollywood's synthetic Cushion Track while completing the nine furlongs in 1:52.20.
"I was very glad to win one for the Wellmans," said Gallagher, who won the 2007 Snow Chief with Leesider. "It looked like he was holding on, but when that other horse came up outside him he really responded. He ducked in a little in the stretch. He’s a little horse with a mind of his own. Grass and distance are going to be his future.”
Nahem, racing toward the rear of the pack, came under urging from Espinoza early on the final turn and gradually responded to take the advantage from the tiring leaders late. Woodmans Luck, charging from last on the far outside for David Flores, appeared to have Nahem's measure as they closed in on the wire but the bay fought on to prevail in a game finish.
“I thought I was going to get there but I wasn’t expecting the outside horse (Woodmans Luck) to come running," Espinoza said. "I knew the favorites were starting to get tired the last sixteenth and I knew I had them. About 10 yards before the wire my horse switched to the wrong lead and I thought at that moment it might have cost me the race.
Espinoza was aboard Nahem to win his maiden-breaker on the Santa Anita turf at one mile two starts back on Feb. 18. He regained the mount for the Snow Chief after Nahem lost a tough head decision in a state-bred optional claiming allowance test March 13 with Garrett Gomez aboard, also at one mile on the turf.
Nahem improved his record to 2-1-0 in five starts while more than doubling his bankroll to $134,400.
Woodmans Luck, off at 15-1, finished second by a half-length over the stalking Thirtyfirststreet, who was ridden by Joel Rosario,
Rosario won three stakes on the Gold Rush card.
Sent off as the second-longest choice in the field of seven, Nahem carried 116 pounds and paid $26, $10.60 and $7.80. Woodmans Luck, who was fifth behind Nahem last time, returned $23.60 and $6.20 as the longest shot on the board. They combined for a $249.60 exacta. Thirtyfirststreet, back in state-bred company after a dismal ninth-place showing in the Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park March 25 for trainer Doug O'Neill, paid $4.20 to show.
Chiloquin, the 5-2 favorite who set the pace (:24.34, :49.01, 1:13.65), finished fourth, followed by Burns and Offlee Wild Boys. Second choice Drink at Buster's was eased in the final furlong with an apparent injury to his left foreleg and removed from the course by horse ambulance.
Elsewhere on the Gold Rush program, heavily favored Amazombie cleared away in the stretch to register a front-running 2 3/4-length win in the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes.
Rosario rode the 11-10 favorite in the field of 11 to victory for trainer Bill Spawr, who owns the 5-year-old in partnership with Thomas Sanford. Gregg Anderson bred Amazombie, who is by Northern Afleet --Wilshe Amaze, by In Excess. The final time for the 7 1/2-furlong test on Cushion Track was 1:29.06.
Amazombie ($4.20 to win), coming off a head victory over Captain Cherokee in the 6 1/2-furlong Potrero Grande Stakes (gr. II) April 3, has won three of four starts in 2011, including the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita in January. The bay gelding carried co-high weight of 124 pounds and improved his career mark to 8-4-2 in 18 starts while earning $493,708.
Quick Enough finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Mobilized.
Odds-on Ultra Blend ($3.60) took the overland route for Rosario to tally a one-length victory in the $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for older fillies and mares, completing the 7 1/2-furlong distance in 1:30.40 over the main track.
Art Sherman trains the 5-year-old mare who has dominated her state-bred competition with four wins in her past five starts since taking last fall's California Cup Matron. She won her second straight stakes for owner Nels Erickson to boost her lifetime record to 9-4-5 in 20 starts with earnings of $535,646.
BnD Chase Thoroughbreds Elven Adams bred Ultra Blend. The dark bay/brown mare is by Richly Blended--Ankha, by Desert Classic.
Lady Railrider was clear in the stretch but could not hold off Ultra Blend while finishing second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of West Ruler.
Rosario completed a stakes trifecta in the Gold Rush when favored Miles Rules ($6.80) held off the fast-rushing Screaming Regal by a nose in the $125,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
The Halo Farms' homebred ran her record to three wins in four starts with one third while claiming her first stakes victory for trainer Clifford Sise Jr. The chestnut filly is by Tribal Rule--Fair Bianca, by Bien Bien.
Miles Rules, racing beyond six furlongs for the first time, had opened up a two-length lead mid-stretch but was running out of steam in the final strides as Screaming Regal charged from fourth to just miss. The final time was 1:46.09 on the Cushion Track.
Screaming Regal finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of the show horse, Warren's Flyer.