(from Hollywood Park report)
Salute the Sarge surged between horses nearing the eighth pole and defeated Leonides to win Wednesday’s $114,900 Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) (VIDEO) by a nose in an upset under leading jockey Michael Baze.
Baze, with 63 wins through 54 days of the Hollywood Park spring/summer meeting, completed a hat-trick in dramatic fashion as he guided the 2-year-old Salute the Sarge from fourth at the top of the stretch to win the six furlong event in a time of 1:12.08 on Cushion Track. Salute the Sarge held the lead in deep stretch but had to dig in for the final strides when Leonides, on the far outside, put a head in front.
"He dug in hard there at the end,” Baze said. “Last time, he had a little trouble switching leads, but today he was right on the money. I wasn't sure I was going to get there, but the last part he started digging in ... I think he saw (Leonides) way outside at the last minute. It was close, I wasn't sure ... I was just saying, ‘please have it, please have it, please have it.’"
Salute the Sarge, perfect in two starts, paid $15.20, $7.20, and $5. The bay colt by Forest Wildcat--Dixie Ghost (Silver Ghost) banked $68,940 for owners Southern Equine Stable to raise his earnings to $96,540.
Leonides, ridden by Joe Talamo, returned $5.20 and $4. The show payoff on Whatever Whenever, Victor Espinoza aboard, was $4.80.
Favorite Booted (6-5) finished fifth in the field of 11 2-year-olds after pressing the pacesetter Kinetic Motion through splits of :21 4/5 and :45 1/5.
“At first I thought we had him by a long head, but there were some doubts which horse won for a little bit,” winning trainer Eric Guillot said. “The two-hole at Hollywood Park has always been my number. I’ve had some good wins out of that position. His running style is one where he breaks sharp and pulls himself back a little, but he’s a nice horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms LLC, Salute the Sarge sold for $300,000 at Barretts in March.
Leonides angled well out on the course by Talamo for the stretch run, closed from sixth with a quarter-mile to run, and looked like a winner 100 yards from the finish line.
“I was very happy with our horse,” trainer Vladimir Cerin said. “We only had 18 days between races, and I couldn’t really do enough with him to prepare him for the race. He was a little green out of the gate and during the race, but he almost got there. The winner ran super, and he just out-finished him.”
Rivergrade Boy finished fourth, followed by Booted, Tide Water Bobby, County Tune, Sky Cape, Sierra Sunset, Kinetic Motion, and Ravin d'Or. Overextended scratched.