"You know, he feels just like last year--very strong at the end of the race and a lot of confidence," Flores said shortly after Mash One's encore performance in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT). It was just over a year ago--371 days, to be precise--that Flores and Mash One sidled up the rail to win the 10-furlong Hirsch, still known back then as the Oak Tree Turf Championship. The son of Mashkour ran that day like a horse who could have a major say in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I), but chronic quarter crack problems flared up before he ever got the chance. The Chilean-bred subsequently went into hibernation, his down time also including minor surgery to extract bone chips from both front ankles and his right hock. He looks like he never skipped a beat. Mash One left the one hole running then came right back to Flores, who kept him in a smooth gallop behind pace-setting Asidero. With three furlongs to run, Mash One began to advance, though it was Boatman, his stablemate, making a bold move along the rail. Alex Solis kept a hard line with Asidero turning for home, however, leaving Espinoza and Boatman anchored inside. Espinoza finally maneuvered out at the eighth pole, but by then, Mash One was gone. Both trained by Bobby Frankel, Mash One and Boatman crossed the line 1 1/4 lengths apart in 2:00.67. "Actually, it was really the same kind of race for him," said Flores, comparing Mash One's back-to-back runs. "The difference was today I got to be comfortable on the outside." The 6-year-old chestnut is owned by John and Jerry Amerman and Roberto Palumbo Ossa. Flores came back later to bag his second grade I of the afternoon in the Oak Leaf Stakes with Notable Career, who will now head to Churchill Downs with the hopes of an entire state sitting on her mahogany shoulders. Sure, a victory in the one-mile Oak Leaf, coupled with her frolic in Hollywood's Landaluce Stakes (gr. III), gives her a head start at matching achievements with her older half-brother, General Challenge. And Flores is bound to grab his first Breeders' Cup trophy sooner or later. Notable Career just might be his ticket. But when the homebred daughter of Avenue of Flags leaves the gate in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) on Nov. 4, she'll be carrying more weight than any 2-year-old filly should rightly bear. Incredibly, 16 Breeders' Cup Championships have now come and gone, and California's breeders are still stuck with a fat goose egg. Sitting in a similar rut, as well, are renowned breeders John and Betty Mabee. Despite their three Eclipse Awards and countless stakes winners, the Mabees have always come up short at the Breeders' Cup. Notable Career may be the one to finally blow away the dark cloud, perhaps in the same manner she swept aside the competition in the Oak Leaf. Racing on the lead, Notable Career kept up a hot tempo, and by the time she reached six furlongs in 1:09.92, the others were simply baked. Euro Empire, another California-bred, hung tough till the eighth pole, when Notable Career finally drew off for good. She hit the wire in 1:36.34, giving Baffert his fourth consecutive Oak Leaf triumph. Euro Empire was four lengths back in second, while Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) winner Cindy's Hero barely made a dent, missing second by a neck.
Pedroza Claims All-Time Title
It wasn't another six-win afternoon or even a repeat of his 50-1 shocker on Martial Law in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). But when Martin Pedroza pushed Colonial Warrior clear coming down the Fairplex stretch on Sept. 28, he commenced a fist-pumping celebration that nearly rocked the Pomona grandstand to ruins. The victory made Pedroza the all-time leading jockey at Fairplex, surpassing David Flores. It was a moment of fulfillment for the 35-year-old Panamanian, who first rode at the Los Angeles County Fair back in the early '80s. He capped his memorable 2000 meet by taking his third Fairplex riding championship, edging apprentice Tyler Baze by two wins. "I'm very emotional," said Pedroza. "When I passed the wire, it looked like I won a $500,000 race. It means a lot to me because it took a lot of years to do." The Fairplex training title naturally went to the winningest trainer in track history, Mel Stute.