Heavily favored Megahertz added the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) to her stellar Southern California resume with her usual late rush Saturday at Hollywood Park.
The 12th stakes win in the little 6-year-old mare's career was different than most of the others only because she was closer to the pack than usual, owing to a sluggish pace. Carrying a career-high 124 pounds, the confirmed late runner revved up for jockey Alex Solis on the outside of the short six-horse field coming off the far turn of the 1 1/4-mile test. She grabbed the lead just inside the eighth pole and gamely held off Winendynme in the final stages for a three-quarters of a length victory.
Solis has been aboard the Bobby Frankel-trained Megahertz for 10 of her stakes victories and has won his last five trips with her – all in grade II races on the turf. Solis said he warmed her up more than usual so she was a little more interested in running early.
"I didn't think there was going to be that much pace in the race," he said. "I wanted to make sure she didn't drop as far back as last time (the Santa Barbara Handicap April 17) when she was 21 lengths behind. With 124 pounds, I didn't want her coming from ten or 15 lengths out of it."
The British-bred Megahertz, a daughter of Pivotal, has now won five of her seven attempts at 10 furlongs. In her previous attempt in the Beverly Hills, she finished third behind the winning Voodoo Dancer in 2003.
Megahertz is perfect in three starts this year, all in grade II events, and has won six of her last nine starts. Assistant trainer Humberto Ascanio said Megahertz could next run in the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar July 23 or the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park on Aug. 13.
The concern for her Saturday was not so much the weight – she spotted the rest of the field from nine to 12 pounds – as the expected lack of pace. Five Nickels got the lead for Tyler Baze, who slowed things to a crawl – :25, :49 2/5 and 1:13 4/5 – before Winendynme, ridden by Corey Nakatani, put the pressure on near the quarter pole. But Five Nickels fought on gamely through the stretch as Megahertz swept up on the outside of the other two and took control. She was gearing down late as Winendynme made it interesting in the closing stages. The final time was 2:01 3/5.
"She's been a little aggressive in the morning, so I guess she just wanted to run," Solis said. "I never had any concerns today. But once she took the lead in the stretch, she started looking around at the crowd, like she usually does. I thought she ran an incredible race today, and I think she is just getting better and better."
Halo Ola, who prompted the early pace with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons, stuck around for third place, a half-length behind Winendynme. Five Nickels finished fourth while Agata and Uraib trailed.
Megahertz won for the 13th time in 31 lifetime starts and pushed her earnings to $1,811,594 for owner Michael Bello.
"I like to watch her run so much," Bello said of his decision to bring Megahertz back for her 6-year-old season. "She's become the fans' horse. But every time she runs, we're so nervous because we love her so much. She's like family."
She paid $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10.
Winendynme, who was making her first start for new trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam, returned $3.20 and $2.10. Argentine multiple grade I winner Halo Ola, making her second United States start, was $2.10 to show.