Red-hot trainer Richard Mandella sent his second-stringer to Fair Grounds for Sunday's $100,000 Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) and favored Olmodavor responded with a well-timed victory for jockey Corey Lanerie.
Mandella's handicap star, Pleasantly Perfect, won Saturday's San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita. Mandella had considered sending Olmodavor in that race as well, but opted to ship the 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy to New Orleans instead.
Olmodavor, carrying top weight of 121 pounds, took full advantage the long Fair Grounds stretch run, wearing down Spanish Empire in the stretch for a three-quarters-of-a-length win. Almuhathir came on to edge Kodema for third, three lengths behind th winner. The final time was 1:45 2/5 on a fast track in the 1 1/16-mile Whirlaway.
Lanerie held the 3-2 favorite in the nine-horse field relaxed off the pace after a slow break and was 10 lengths behind heading into the final turn. But Olmodavor began picking off his rivals on the turn, soon ranging up on the outside of Spanish Empire, who had disposed of pacesetting El Ruller in the stretch. Spanish Empire, racing somewhat erratically through the lane under Eddie Martin Jr., refused to give in after being passed by Olmodavor, but could not regain the lead.
"On the backside, I felt that he was moving sluggish," said Lanerie. "I even hit him once to get his attention, and when I called on him, he began to respond very well."
The fractions set by El Ruller were moderate – :24 2/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 4/5.
The Kentucky-bred bay, owned in partnership by Wertheimer, Frere and Heilbronn, was coming off a third-place finish in the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) behind Star Cross at Santa Anita Jan. 3. Star Cross returned to finish a distant second to Pleasantly Perfect yesterday.
Olmodavor won the Native Diver (gr. III) at Hollywood Park a month prior to the San Pasqual and had shown a liking for Fair Grounds with a second-place finish to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) in March.
By telephone from California, Mandella said that the 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy
would probably return for the this year's $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on Feb. 29.
"This horse only lost by three lengths to Mineshaft last year, and I think he'll do better with added distance and a track that won't be as heavy and deep," said Lanerie.
The victory, worth $60,000, increased Olmodavor's earnings to $417,540 with five wins, three seconds and a third in 11 starts.
He paid $5, $3 and $2.80. Spanish Empire, the second choice of the public, returned $3 and $2.60. Almuhathir, who closed from last with a wide move into the stretch for Larry Melancon, showed for $5.60.
After Kodema came Total Impact, Classic Par, M B Sea, G.W.'s Skoppie and El Ruller.