Just Wonder, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, cut loose a furious rally while wide on the final turn and went on to win the $184,550 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the Hollywood Park turf Sunday.
Desormeaux, on a short trip to his Southern California home from Japan, where he has been competing recently, brought the English-bred son of Hernando from last around the eight-horse field to contention in about 150 yards on the turn.
He caught the front-running Slew City Citadel, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela in mid-stretch. Bis Repetitas, with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons, saved ground into the stretch and finished willingly, beaten by 3/4 length. Slew City Citadel held on for third, 4 3/4 lengths behind the winner. The time for the 1 1/8-mile Cinema on a firm turf was a solid 1:47 2/5.
"This guy's special. When I let him out and showed him daylight, he took off without being asked, which is what you like them to do," said Desormeaux.
"This horse has a tremendous turn of foot," said winning trainer Laura de Seroux, who saddled Just Wonder for a large partnership that includes Berry Gordy, founder of Motown records who races as Vistas Stable. "We knew it all along."
Just Wonder, who won his third race in five U.S. starts since being purchased from French interests, was coming off a two-length score in the $100,000 Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows. The Cinema, worth $98,730 to his owners, was his first graded stakes victory and nearly doubled Just Wonder's career earnings to $207,727.
De Seroux said the bay colt would be pointed to the Del Mar Derby or Secretariat at Arlington later this summer.
Helms Deep dueled away from the gate with Ender's Shadow through an opening quarter-mile of :23 before Slew City Citadel pulled his way to the leaders on the inside and eventually edged in front of the hard-pulling Helms Deep through a :46 2/5 half and a fleet 1:10 six furlongs. He managed a short lead at the head of the stretch as Helms Deep faded, but could not match strides with the winner.
Private Chef, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Victor Espinoza was in touch with field into the turn, but was shuffled back and boxed in during the stretch run. He rallied very late to get fourth.
Just Wonder signals a return to racing for Gordy, who dropped out of the game after trainer Rodney Rash died in 1996. He campaigned Alex The Great, Powis Castle and several others in the 1980s and 1990s. He also is part-owner of Liska, whom de Seroux saddles in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 5.
The winner paid $8.80, $4.40 and $4 as the second choice in the field of eight. Bis Repetitas returned $8 and $6.20. Slew City Citadel's show was $5.80. The $2 exacta was worth $68.40.