The Jerry Frankel homebred Joey Franco took advantage of a perfect trip to capture the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) by a head over a fast-closing Publication Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Joey Franco, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, drifted out in the stretch and appeared to force Publication to alter his course near the wire, but stewards disallowed an objection lodged by Publication's jockey, Kent Desormeaux. Stewards disqualified the third-place finisher, Bluesthestandard, and placed him sixth for cutting off pacesetting Avanzado in a rough stretch run. Primerica, 3 1/2 lengths farther back, was placed third. The final time in the seven-furlong Triple Bend was 1:21 2/5.
Valenzuela, the leading rider at the meet, won five races Saturday.
It was the third straight win for Joe Franco, trained by Darrell Vienna. He won his first graded stakes race as well in his first appearance in a grade I.
Joey Franco was in the garden spot, allowed to sit third as the slight 2-1 favorite Avanzado set quick fractions of :21 4/5, :44 2/5 and 1:08 2/5. Valenzuela asked 4-year-old son of Avenue of Flags to quicken on the turn on the outside and he soon overtook the leader and Bluesthestandard in mid-stretch. He appeared to be home free but began drifting as he tired in the last stages of the race. Publication, who saved ground at the rail, split horses in the stretch and finished with a rush to make it close.
Avanzado finished sixth, but was moved up to fifth via the disqualification of Bluesthestandard.
The winner was coming off a victory in the 7 1/2-furlong Ack Ack, where he handled Publication with greater ease.
"He had to work a lot harder today, and that might have been why he was veering out there in the stretch," Vienna said.
"This horse has gotten really good," Valenzuela said. "He relaxed behind the leaders. And around the turn, he started to pick it up really nice. Through the stretch, he finished strong. The horse Kent Desormeaux was on came smoking at the end. As for the objection, my horse was drifting out, but never was Kent on my heels. The stewards noted that. I think Kent just was taking a shot. My horse was drifting out, but Kent was three lengths behind me when I was drifting out."
Vladimir Cerin, trainer of the runner-up Publication, wasn't discouraged. "I was just happy my horse came back healthy and he proved that he deserves to be in a grade one race."
It was the seventh career triumph for Joey Franco in 14 starts, who pushed his career earnings over the $550,000 mark with the $180,000 winning purse.
The 5-2 second choice in the nine-horse field, Joey Franco paid $7, $4.40 and $3.20. Publication returned $7.40 and $4.40. Primerica's show was $5.60. The $2 exacta was worth $42.20.