Washington Bridge became the fourth 3-year-old filly in five years to win the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) when she passed them all in deep stretch to win the $150,000 event going away by 1 3/4 lengths at Hollywood Park Dec. 5.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who owns the daughter of Yankee Gentleman along with Mark DeDomenico, Washington Bridge made it back-to-back wins at the Hollywood meet and three victories in a row overall. She won the restricted Life Is Sweet Stakes Nov. 12 at the Bayakoa's 1 1/16-mile distance in similar style by 2 1/4 lengths. This was the first graded win for Washington Bridge.
The race, less than an hour after a crowd of 11,216 saluted the retiring Zenyatta in an emotional farewell, was not very lucky for the champion's stablemate, Zardana. Attempting to defend her title in the Bayakoa for trainer John Shirreffs, 6-year-old Zardana could not find room in the stretch run until it was too far late and settled for third, one length behind pacesetting Sister Dawn and 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
With Rafael Bejarano aboard in a mild surprise, Washington Bridge's winning time over the Cushion Track was a slow 1:44.25.
Sister Dawn, stretching out to two turns for the first time since March for trainer John Sadler, took the early lead and stole away to a two-length advantage over Sweet August Moon and Lady Railrider while clicking off sensible fractions of :23.79, :47.73 and 1:12.53. She appeared to be a threat to take them all the way when she cut the final turn beautifully to stretch her advantage to about three lengths in upper stretch.
Still last at the quarter pole after trailing the field into the final turn, Bejarano angled Washington Bridge five wide in the stretch and charged home. Silver Swallow, racing at the rail, was gradually cutting into Sister Dawn's lead and Zardana, trapped behind horses near the rear of the pack from the quarter pole past mid-stretch, finally got running room for Victor Espinoza.
It was to no avail, however, as Washington Bridge swept past impressively in the final furlong to win as much the best under some urging from Bejarano. Sister Dawn, ridden by Alonso Quinonez, held on well for second with the Brazilian mare Zardana edging Silver Swallow by 1 1/4 lengths for third. Wynning Ride, Sweet August Moon and Lady Railrider followed in the seven-horse field.
Washington Bridge joined Briecat (2008), Romance Is Diane (2007) and Foxysox (2006) as recent 3-year-old winners of the Bayakoa. The fast-improving bay filly improved to 5-4-0 in 18 starts with earnings of $221,089.
“Sometimes the horse gets the idea, turns around and starts doing things right," said Hollendorfer. “This is the third time in a row that she put it all together. She was very nervous earlier in her career, but she’s settled down quite a bit lately. We just took our time, schooled her a lot and stood her at the gate a lot.
"The way that Rafael was riding her, I thought when she was sitting back there that he felt quite confident," Hollendorfer said. "Once she unleashed her run she had a nice turn of foot. For now we’ll probably keep her and Blind Luck separated."
Brereton C. Jones bred the winner, who is out of the Prized mare Stirling Bridge, in Kentucky.
The fourth choice, Washington Bridge carried 117 pounds and paid $12, $6.40 and $4.40 while keying a $147.60 exacta. Sister Dawn, another 3-year-old who was coming off a stakes win at Hollywood last month, returned $13.40 and $7. Zardana, the 118-pound highweight, was $3.20 to show.
It Tiz scratched.