Sky Jack set a brisk early pace under jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. and drew away to a seven-length win in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III), Sunday at Hollywood Park. The 4-year-old son of Jaklin Klugman completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.81.
Sky Jack raced through the opening quarter-mile in :22.91 while pressed by Saint Wynn, held a one-length lead over Moore's Flat after a half-mile in :46.34, and drew away from Lethal Instrument in the stretch to earn the win.
"He ran a wild race," Pincay said. "He is really a good horse, I think. He just can run. I remember when he finished third for me at Del Mar, I was very high on him. He got beat about six lengths. But ever since that time, I've said this horse can really run."
Lethal Instrument finished second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Grey Memo, the lone 3-year-old in the field.
"I thought I was in the right spot," said Corey Nakatani, Lethal Instrument's rider. "I came to the leader like I was going to run by him like he was tied to a pole, and that sucker re-broke. It was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it."
Literal Prowler was fourth, followed by Casey Griffin, and Estio. Moore's Flat and Saint Wynn -- the two horses to challenge Sky Jack in the early going -- were eased and did not finish.
Sky Jack earned owner Ren-Mar Thoroughbreds $60,000 for the win, his sixth in ten career starts. The Native Diver marks the California-bred geldings first graded stakes win. Sky Jack came into the race out of a 4 1/2-length victory in the California Cup Classic Handicap, in which Literal Prowler finished second in the race for Cal-breds. Sky Jack is trained by Doug O'Neill and was bred by Rene and Margie Lambert.
"I knew the Cal Cup wasn't a fluke," Pincay added. "I mean, this horse is all over the place. He's running in, he's going out, but he can run. When Corey Nakatani's horse came at me, he took off again. Yes, this could be a horse to get excited about. I hate to say that, but I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. He's sound. He's a little cuckoo, but he's sound, and he will improve, I think."
The 2-1 favorite in the eight-horse field, Sky Jack returned $6, $3.20 and $2.80. Lethal Instrument paid $4.20 and $3. Grey Memo was worth $4 to show. The $1 exacta paid $12.50.
"I just kept thinking Laffit is riding and he must know he's got enough left for the end," O'Neill said. "He ran awesome. I really was more impressed today, because in the Cal Cup speed was holding all day and he kind of got an easy lead. Today, Lethal Instrument, when he ranged up to him about the eighth pole, I said, 'Oh man, well at least we're gonna run second.' But Laffit had another gear left." (Chart, Equibase