The Japanese star Dance in the Mood, whose connections were disappointed when she ran second in the 2004 American Oaks (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park turf, provided redemption Saturday when she romped to victory in the $750,000 CashCall Invitational Mile (gr. IIIT).
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, the strapping, nearly black 5-year-old Sunday Silence mare made a sweeping five-wide move on the far turn from the rear of the field, took command in upper stretch, and finished eased up under a hand ride to defeat Sweet Talker by more than two lengths. The slight 5-2 favorite, she completed the mile in 1:33 1/5, a CashCall stakes record. The race was previously the Royal Heroine.
The champion had lost 14 races in a row while facing the best of her country's handicap horses before capturing the Victoria Mile (Jpn-I) in Tokyo May 14. She ran fifth, four lengths behind Hong Kong's Horse of the Year Bullish Luck in her last start, the Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) June 4.
Dance in the Mood earned $400,000, increasing her career winnings to $4,885,512, with six wins in 21 starts.
Kazuo Fujisawa trains Dance in the Mood for owner Shadai Race Horse, whose representative, Nobu Takatada, told TVG: "We felt we left something here two years ago. We wanted to make up for it."
Fujisawa, through and interpreter, added, "She's a little more mature and relaxed now. She's a happy race horse now.
"(Last year), she was going through a stage where she couldn't relax going into the races. Now when she goes to the races, she doesn't sweat up or anything. She's 10 times quieter than she ever was before. We've changed her training and given her a lot of time. I was quietly confident that she would win today."
Expected to contest the early lead, Espinoza instead allowed Dance in the Mood to fall back shortly after breaking from her outside post. She raced wide around both turns but it had no effect on the outcome. Espinoza said he chose to stay away from traffic.
"She was nice and relaxed, but she was just waiting for me to ask her. And when I moved my hands just a little bit, she took off so fast. Next thing I know, I was almost in the lead. But I had already committed to go, and I wanted to beat everybody's momentum, so at that point I just figured we'd open it up as much as we could.
"It was just so easy for her, I didn't have to do much. She's an unbelievable filly."
Flying Glitter outfought Cambiocorsa for the early lead to set quick early fractions of :23 and :46 1/5. Cambiocorsa got the lead coming off the final turn and briefly tried to hold off Dance in the Mood, who swept past under light urging. The Maryland invader Sweet Talker, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, overtook the tiring Cambiocorsa to get second. Luas Line found racing room late under Aaron Gryder and finished well to get third, one-half length behind Sweet Talker.
"I think she ran terrific," trainer Graham Motion said of his filly, Sweet Talker. "The winner is obviously a brilliant filly."
Dance in the Mood paid $7.20, $4.40, and $3.40. Sweet Talker returned $5 and $3.80. The Irish-bred Luas Line, who won last fall's Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Belmont and ran 10 days ago at Royal Ascot, was $7 to show.
Gryder, aboard Luas Line for the first time, said he saw Dance in the Mood make her move but preferred to wait.
"I elected to just sit there and not try and go with her, and then follow her on," said Gryder of Dance in the Mood. "I figured if I had enough horse I could punch on and grab first or second. And she just kept grinding. She ran a big race. I was hoping she would get up for second, but all things considered – she ran 10 days ago over at Ascot, shipping here in the heat and everything – she ran a very courageous race."
Dancing Edie finished fourth, followed by Cambiocorsa, the narrow 5-2 second choice Shining Energy, Toupe and Flying Glitter.
"I just think the course might have been too firm for her," said Corey Nakatani, who rode Shining Energy for trainer Julio Canani. "I mean, they were running a mile in '33. It's pretty firm out there, and I just don't think she handled it."