Unusual Suspect snapped his 16-race losing streak when he overcame pacesetter Temple City in the final couple of strides to win the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by a head Nov. 13 at Hollywood Park.
Corey Nakatani got the 10-1 shot Unusual Suspect up at the wire under strong urging for trainer Barry Abrams, who owns the 6-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat with his wife Dyan and brother David.
Unusual Suspect, who ran second in the California Cup Classic over Hollywood's Cushion Track two weeks ago, registered his first victory since taking the Cougar II Handicap over Richard's Kid Aug. 5, 2009 at Del Mar.
A veteran of 55 starts and nine victories, Unusual Suspect went over the $1 million mark in career earnings with his first grade I triumph. He joined Prince Spellbound, who won the second division of the Turf Cup in 1982, as the only California-bred winners of the race.
Temple City ran second with the late-running Buenos Dias third. The mare Treat Gently, attempting to become the second female to win the Turf Cup, finished fourth as the second choice in the field of eight. Favored Where's the Remote was last.
Unusual Suspect completed the 1 1/2-mile trip in a solid time of 2:25.83.
The Turf Cup returned to the Hollywood Park autumn meet schedule this year after being a stakes budget casualty in 2009.
Back on turf for the first time since this summer following a disastrous effort in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) last month, Temple City was intent on getting the early lead for jockey Joe Talamo. He took the advantage over Marlang while carving a solid opening half-mile in :48.46 and the mile in 1:36.94. Nakatani found a position outside a rival for Unusual Suspect and he was fourth after the field settled down and moved up to third by the time they had completed six furlongs.
Temple City maintained a one- to two-length advantage for the opening mile before Marlang and Unusual Suspect began to draw closer. Marlang, though, began to tire rounding the final turn and Temple City bounded away to about a 2 1/2-length advantage over Unusual Suspect, who was racing three deep, coming off the turn.
The challenger refused to give in, however, and under encouragement from Nakatani was able to whittle the lead gradually before getting on even terms in deep stretch. Unusual Suspect, gritty to the end, proved best in the final strides over a game Temple City.
“He broke really well and I was in a pretty good position,’’ said Nakatani after his third Turf Cup victory and first since he scored with Lazy Lode in 1998. “They were going slow, so I just let him do his own thing.
“Barry’s team put him together and put him in the right spot for me and made me look good. At the very end when I called on him, he kind of gave me that surge that I thought he would and we were able to get there.’’
Buenos Dias, squeezed back in the early going, rallied with interest on the far outside to get third for jockey Brice Blanc. He finished three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
Treat Gently, bottled up in traffic for much of the journey, didn't have the cleanest of trips. The grade II winner, sent off at 2-1, got clear for the stretch run and appeared to be a threat before flattening out late and finishing two lengths behind the winner. She was a nose better than Worth Repeating, with Marlang and Big Shot Syd next.
Where's the Remote was sent off as the 9-5 choice following his second to Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) runner-up Champ Pegasus in Oak Tree's Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Championship (gr. IT) over the course last month. But he never appeared comfortable after being squeezed early and dropped out of contention early.
The versatile Unusual Suspect won for the fourth time in 16 starts on the Hollywood turf. His victories over the course include the Hollywood Turf Express Handicap (gr. IIIT) sprinting in November 2007. This was his first win at 12 furlongs on the turf in five tries.
He earned $150,000 for his latest victory -- his first in 14 tries in 2010 -- and has now banked $1,035,171 for the Abrams family. David Abrams bred the dark bay or brown horse who is out of the New Zealand mare Penpont, by Crested Wave.
“We’ll give him some time off and see how he comes out of the race, then think about sending him to Australia in a couple of months,’’ said Barry Abrams. “This horse deserves to be a stallion.
“But in this country distance horses aren’t popular stallions. So my thinking, if I send him to Australia I can race him there a year and then retire him to stud.’’
Sent off as the fifth choice, Unusual Suspect paid $22.40, $9.40 and $5, keying a $136.20 exacta.
Spendthrift Farm's Temple City, who won this year's Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) on Del Mar's Polytrack for trainer Carla Gaines, returned $6.20 and $4.
Charles Cella's Irish-bred Buenos Dias was $7 to show. A $2 trifecta was worth $1,494.20 and a $1 superfecta was $3,503.80.