On the anniversary of breaking Bill Shoemaker's all time record of 8,833 wins, Laffit Pincay Jr. won on his only mount of the day, a three-length triumph aboard Men's Exclusive in the $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III), Sunday at Hollywood Park.
"What a great feeling," said Pincay. "I thought I was in tough today. ... This horse has run his best races for me when he's come from behind. When I've gotten him close to the pace, he hasn't been firing."
Straight Man set the early pace, as Lexicon and Rampaging Alf kept the pressure on. Lexicon took control on the turn and entered the stretch with a clear lead as Straight Man tired. Men's Exclusive was angled off the rail by Pincay and blew by Lexicon under no encouragement. On a fast track, Men's Exclusive stopped the timer in 1:09.02. Love All the Way, the 11-5 favorite who had been claimed out of five consecutive races earlier this year, closed well to finish second, a length ahead of Lexicon. Straight Man came home fourth, followed by Son of a Pistol, Tavasco, and Rampaging Alf.
"He (Men's Exclusive) really came through today and Laffit rode him like the champion he is," said trainer Wesley Ward. "I've been riding Laffit ever since I started training and I've only given Laffit instructions one time. Otherwise I just tell him 'good luck' and how the horse is training in the morning. But Laffit knows the horse very, very well. I think Laffit decided today to try a different tactic in taking him from behind, and I think that made the difference."
Men's Exclusive (Exclusive Ribot--Men's Number, by Meneval) is a 7-year-old gelding bred in California by owner H.E. Reed. Men's Exclusive earned $60,000 for the win, his eighth in 28 career starts. Men's Exclusive won the 1997 Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) and finished sixth in that year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), both under Pincay. In his most recent start prior to the Underwood, Men's Exclusive finished fifth in the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
Sent off at just over 7-1, Men's Exclusive returned $16.40, $6.20 and $4.20. Love All the Way paid $4 and $2.60. Lexicon was worth $3.20 to show. The $1 exacta paid $24.
Sunday's win marks Pincay's second Underwood win -- the first came on Pancho Villa in 1985 -- and his 9,029th career win. (Chart, Equibase