Star Over the Bay's game front-running victory by a nose over odds-on favorite Continuously in the $150,000 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) on the lawn Sunday put a big bow around jockey Tyler Baze's first riding title at Hollywood Park.
Star Over the Bay, claimed two starts back for $80,000 by trainer Mike Mitchell, prevailed by a nose in a thundering finish to the spring/summer meeting's final stakes race.
The 6-year-old gray/roan Cozzene
gelding went gate to wire, completing the 1 1/2-mile event in 2:26 2/5 for his first graded stakes win.
Allowed to set a lazy lead with only Leprechaun Kid in the vicinity, Baze took full advantage, clicking off manageable fractions of :24 2/5, :47 4/5 , 1:11 3/5 and 1:36 4/5 while leading by as much as four lengths on the backstretch. Continuously, the 4-5 choice with Alex Solis riding for trainer Bobby Frankel, wound up from behind on the turn along the inside of rivals. After sweeping past Leprechaun Kid at the top of the stretch, he had Star over the Bay in his sights. Inside the eighth pole, it appeared that the favorite would soar past, but as they reached even terms, Star Over the Bay fought back gamely on the inside to nip Continuously after a head-and-head final sixteenth.
Baze, 21, became the youngest to win the Hollywood spring/summer riding title since Laffit Pincay, Jr. in 1968. Pincay was two months younger than Baze. He rode two winners on the closing-day program and finished the meet with 59 victories, four more than Victor Espinoza.
"This horse is great," Baze said. "This was the second time I've ridden him and the thing was just to get him to relax. Mike Mitchell ... said he was pretty sure this horse could get a mile-and-a-half. I didn't know if he could get that distance, but today he got a nice breather and finished well.
"This has really been exciting for me," Baze added. "I won a big one yesterday in Minnesota and then a big one today along with the riding title. It couldn't have happened any better for me."
Star Over the Bay has made $130,000 in two starts for his new owners, which include David and Phil Kelly of Hacienda Heights, Carl VanBurger of Apple Valley and Landon Vaughn of San Diego.
He earned $90,000 for his seventh victory in 37 starts. In his only other start for his new connections he lost the Dallas Turf Cup by a neck while second to Maysville Slew June 19 at Lone Star Park. He had been steadily climbing the claiming ladder for trainer Vladimir Cerin when he was claimed May 16. He won that day by four lengths. Star Over the Bay's lifetime earnings stand at $338,353.
"It's great," Mitchell said. "The distance wasn't really a concern. If you train him, you think that he can get this far. I really felt he just didn't like the turf course in Texas. It seemed like it was just a little too soft. I know Vladimir did a great job getting this horse ready to run. There wasn't a lot that I did to this horse, and I feel that he really likes this turf course out here. Because of that, 113, I thought he could get a mile-and-a-half."
The 3-1 second choice in the field of seven, Star Over the Bay paid $8, $3.20 and $3. Continuously returned $2.60 and $2.20. Leprechaun Kid, who kept churning for Javier Santiago through the stretch, finished willingly to be third, losing by only a length.
Continuously was beaten by a nose in the 2003 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) but awarded the win through the disqualification of his Bobby Frankel-trained stablemate Epicentre.
"He just kind of hung the last 25 yards," Solis said of the favorite. "I thought he was going to win, but he couldn't quite get there."
Runway Dancer was fourth, 10 lengths behind, followed by Freddy, Gallant and Gulchie.