Even the Score overcame an eventful stretch run with jockey David Flores to pull away for a two-length victory in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Parked slightly off the rail at the top of the stretch, Flores had plenty of horse but no room. They were finally able to squeeze through a small hole between faltering Buckland Manor and Total Impact and took aim at the leader, pacesetting Ender's Shadow. Nearly even in mid-stretch on the outside, however, Even the Score unexpectredly threw his head, temporarily losing his momentum.
However, under left-handed urging from Flores, the 6-year-old horse by Unbridled's Song
soon caught Ender's Shadow and drew away in the final half-furlong in a time of 1:40 4/5 for the 1 1/16-mile test.
Ender's Shadow, ridden by Mick Ruis, was a clear second, three lengths in front of Total Impact and Mike Smith. Olmodavor, the late-running 2-1 favorite, was fourth after rallying on the outside but lacking much response.
Ender's Shadow, sent off at 15-1, set strong fractions of :23 1/5, :45 4/5, 1:09 2/5 and 1:34 2/5 before giving way.
In his second start for trainer Vladimir Cerin, Even the Score was primed for a big effort. After nearly six months on the sidelines, the gray returned to action with a third-place finish in the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III) April 3 at Santa Anita. A winner of three of eight last year, he was previously trained by Dallas Stewart.
Even the Score earned $90,000 for owner Ro Parra, increasing his career bankroll to $511,629 with his eighth win in 27 starts.
Aspiration Stable bred the winner, who is out of the Rahy mare Ashtabula, in Kentucky.
The fourth choice in a field of eight, Even the Score paid $12, $6 and $5. Ender's Shadow returned $15.20 and $7.60. Total Impact's show was $4.20. the exacta was worth $162.
Buckland Manor was fifth, followed by Gift of the Eagle, The Eden and Star Cross.