Prestonwood Farm's Irish-bred Bayamo, whose 2003 campaign was cut short by an ankle chip, continued his impressive comeback Sunday with a facile victory in the $150,000 American Handicap (gr. II) on the Hollywood Park turf.
The 5-year-old Valanour gelding stalked a tepid pace on the outside, made a three-wide move on the final turn and sped away in the stretch. He drew off under a mild hand ride by David Flores and was under a long reign to finish up 4 1/2 lengths in front of 7-year-old multi-millionaire campaigner Sarafan. Night Patrol, the pacesetter, settled for third in the field of five. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile grass test was 1:46 3/5.
"I wanted to save ground on the backside," Flores said, "but I'm thinking I'm on the best horse. I'll circle the field. There's only three horses there. So I let him get comfortable.
Trained by Julio Canani, the prohibitive 3-5 favorite Bayamo carried 117 pounds under handicap conditions, receiving two pounds from Sarafan.
He was coming off a closing second-place finish, beaten by Sabiango by three-quarters of length, in the June 12 Charlie Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at 10 furlongs at Hollywood.
He broke slowly in that race, and if there was a concern for Bayamo Sunday, it was once again the start. He started last and was three wide into the first turn as Night Patrol and Victor Espinoza got away to lead through fractions of :23 1/5, :46 1/5 and 1:09 3/5.
Bayamo continued to travel well while wide all the way, stalking to the final turn. He moved up to Night Patrol and Black Bart while three wide and grabbed command as they straightened away. Sarafan, ridden by Corey Nakatani, moved up along the inside after shuffling back to last early and rallied toward the outside while chasing Bayamo vainly to finish four lengths in front of Night Patrol.
"Alex Solis (aboard Black Bart) chirped to his horse, and mine just took off," Flores said. "I never touched him. He saved me energy and made my job very easy."
Black Bart, the second choice at 5-2, was fourth and R McLennen trailed.
Bayamo won one of four in France before beginning his career for Canani in May 2003. After an impressive allowance win on the Hollywood sod June 29, 2003, he was put away to recover from his ankle injury. He returned on May 5 with a 1 1/4-length allowance win and followed that with the Whittingham effort, where his chances were compromised by a slow pace. Canani felt the nine furlongs of the American would better suit his charge.
Bayamo's fourth win in nine starts was worth $90,000, increasing his career earnings to $241,428.
He paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Sarafan returned $3.20 and $2.10. Night Patrol was $2.10 to show.