After a disappointing effort in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) one month ago, Gary Tanaka's veteran mare Star Parade returned to the familiar surroundings of Hollywood Park to capture the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III) in determined front-running fashion Sunday.
The Argentine-bred million-dollar mare, trained by Darrell Vienna, won for the fourth time in seven lifetime starts at Hollywood, defeating Hollywood Story by 1 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:42 1/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
"She always runs well on this racetrack," Vienna said. "I told Martin to do whatever he wanted – I didn't think these horses could beat her – and to ride her like he wanted. It wasn't anything about strategy, he could have taken back and I think she would have won. I was pretty confident."
Healthy Addiction, the 11-10 favorite in the field of five after her 1 3/4-length win in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita in March, was outrun early for the lead by Star Parade and finished a distant third, seven lengths behind the winner. Healthy Addiction carried top weight of 120 pounds, two more than Star Parade and Hollywood Story.
With Martin Pedroza in the irons, Star Parade was sent early along the inside to lead Healthy Addiction into the clubhouse turn, edging away to lead by a length reaching the backstretch while clicking off a quarter-mile in :23 2/5. She increased her advantage over Healthy Addiction to two lengths after a :47 half-mile and continued to control the pace as Hollywood Story came to challenge on her inside on the far turn after completing six furlongs in 1:11.
Hollywood Story, whose last victory came in the 2005 Hawthorne, inched closer along the inside in the stretch. But perhaps sensing that Hollywood Story didn't like squeezing inside of Star Parade and the rail for the final sixteenth, jockey Victor Espinoza steadied the 5-year-old mare and switched to the outside. The tactic didn't work, however, as Star Parade, given a good crack of the whip in deep stretch, finished willingly.
"I had so much confidence in her, I didn't really ask too hard today," Pedroza said of Star Parade. "It was kind of like a workout. I thought it looked like it was only a two-horse race on paper, so I wanted to make sure to get the lead, and I pretty much got my way. I had plenty of horse left in the stretch."
Espinoza said he was hoping for another miraculous finish from Hollywood Story, who nearly stumbled and fell after clipping heels on the clubhouse turn of last year's Hawthorne.
"She ran good," jockey Victor Espinoza said. "The rail opened up, but then it closed. I think she might have gotten a little intimidated."
The 7-year-old Star Parade atoned for a fifth-place finish at odds of 19-10 in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom when she gave way after chasing a moderate pace. Prior to that the daughter of Parade Marshal won the 1 1/16-mile Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita by two lengths. Her last victory at Hollywood also came at 1 1/16 miles in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) by four lengths in December. Overall, Star Parade is 9-7-4 in 31 starts with earnings of $1,160,419.
The second choice at 8-5, Star Parade paid $5.20, $3 and $2.10. Hollywood Story returned $3.60 and $2.20. Healthy Addiction was $2.10 to show. New Regina ran fourth while Santa Candida trailed. Freakin Streakin scratched.
Patrick Valenzuela rode four winners on the card to more than double his output for the meet. He has seven wins through ten racing days, good for a third place tie with Tyler Baze in the standings. Espinoza leads with ten wins, followed by David Cohen with eight.
The four-win day was the 15th for the 43-year-old jockey at Hollywood Park. The most recent came June 15, 2003.
Valenzuela's wins came with Tolerance ($8.80) in the second race, Mr. Splash ($8.40) in the fifth race, Bushwacker ($5) in the eighth race and Thanks ($7.80) in the ninth race.