Trainer Bobby Frankel broke Charlie Whittingham's Hollywood Park record for most career victories in Saturday's $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT), but it took about 15 minutes for stewards to decide which of two horses he accomplished the feat with.
In the end, they disqualified Juddmonte's Epicentre, first across the finish line by a nose, for bumping third-place finisher Bowman Mill in the stretch, and placed Saud bin Khaled's Continuously first. Epicentre was moved to third.
Either way, the decision gave Frankel his 860th career win at Hollywood, breaking Whittingam's record. It was also the Hall of Fame conditioner's 24th grade I victory in 2003, a world record for grade/group I victories that broke Aidan O'Brien's global mark. Frankel added to the American record he established last month.
"It's a little controversial," Frankel said. "When I first saw where he did bump him, I thought he was going to come down. But when you see him turning for home, I thought the other horse drifted in front of him and he just ran up his behind.
"That's great," he said of passing Whittingham. "I think the other one is better (24 Grade I wins). I am real proud of this one. Charlie was a friend of mine. I wish he was alive to see it."
Alex Solis rode Continuously to victory. The final time of the 1 1/2-mile turf event was 2:29 on a firm track.
"I thought he would have finished first if he had switched leads in the stretch," Solis said of the winner. "He stayed on his right lead down the stretch. But, with some help from the stewards, we won anyway."
The start of the race was delayed for six minutes because Labirinto flipped leaving the paddock and injured jockey Brice Blanc. Labirinto was not hurt in the incident, but there was a substantial delay in getting the horse re-saddled and on the track while Blanc was attended to. Finally, after Blanc was deemed unfit to ride, trainer Leonard Powell, who was starting his first horse, gave the call to Mike Smith. Blanc was taken to the hospital for observation. He complained of a sore shoulder, according to an observer.
Once the race got started, Bowman Mill was able to set all of the soft fractions under jockey David Flores – :26 1/5, :51 3/5, 1:16 4/5 and 1:41 2/5 – and held a tenuous lead as the field reached the stretch. That's when the stalking Epicentre, ridden by Corey Nakatani, challenged on the outside, lugging in and bumping the leader in midstretch and knocking Bowman Mill off stride.
The two continued to battle down the lane, joined by Continuously, who wound up finishing a nose behind Epicentre after challenging three wide in deep stretch. Bowman Mill was a head farther back in third place, but was moved up to second as a result of the controversial decision.
Nakatani spoke to stewards by phone a couple of times during the review and was clearly disappointed in their reasoning.
"I don't see why they made the decision to take (Epicentre) down," he told TVG. "It didn't affect the outcome of the race. (Bowman Mill) floated out into my path. I've seen a lot worse than that. I rode my horse to win."
Bowman Mill shipped to Hollywood Park from New York.
"At the three-eighths pole, I thought I had a great chance," Flores said. "He responded really smooth and kept trying. When the other horse (Epicentre) came at him, I still thought I had a good chance. But I got bumped so hard that he completely lost his stride. He's such a big horse, it took him several strides to get back going again. But he never kept trying."
Runaway Dancer was fourth after rallying from last in the stretch, followed by Staging Post, Hatif and Labirinto.
Continuously, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred bay colt by British sire Diesis from the dam Play On and On (by Stop the Music), won his first stakes race as the second-biggest price on the board at 6-1. He was eighth after leading into the stretch in his most recent start, the Carleton F. Burke (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. He had two previous wins in the United States – in an allowance race and an optional claiming event – in six starts.
He earned $150,000 for the victory, pushing his career total to $267,156 for four lifetime wins in 12 starts.
Frankel called breaking the record "a great honor." It was his 121st stakes win at the Inglewood track, 101 behind the legendary Whittingham, who trained at Hollywood for 60 years.
"He was a great trainer, Charley Whittingham, probably one of the greatest there ever was," Frankel told TVG. "It's nice to get it over with, and to do it in a grade one is even better. But I'm disappointed they took down (Epicentre). He gave him a good bump, but (Bowman Mill) came off the rail. Definitely (bittersweet), but I won it, so I'm happy."
Frankel, aiming for a fourth consecutive Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding trainer, is the nation's leading trainer with earnings of more than $18 million.
Continuously paid $14.40, $6.40 and $3.60. Bowman Mill returned $3.80 and $2.60. Epicentre, who raced as an entry with Staging Post, showed for $2.60. the $2 exacta was worth $45.40.
Hataab and Superiority scratched.