Padua Stable's Cajun Beat posted his first win for trainer Bobby Frankel, taking advantage of a sizzling pace to come from behind for a commanding victory in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) Friday on the Hollywood Park grass.
The 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner, Cajun Beat picked up his first victory on the turf in the 5 1/2-furlong event. The 4-year-old Grand Slam gelding returned to the winner's circle for the first time since winning the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in January for trainer Steve Margolis.
Sixth on the turn, Cajun Beat split horses in upper stretch with jockey Ramon Dominguez and made a bold on the outside, inhaling the tiring pacesetter De Valmont at the sixteenth pole and cruising home under moderate urging by three lengths.
Making his debut at Hollywood Park Dominguez, who rode Cajun Beat for the first time, teamed with Frankel to win an earlier race in the Turf Festival Friday with Louvain. The Irish-bred took the first division of the Miesque (gr. IIIT) for 2-year-old fillies in her first U.S. start. Frankel leads all trainers with 13 Turf Festival wins.
"I was a little concerned as well as surprised the first part because (Cajun Beat) broke extremely sharp, but he didn't show a whole lot of speed," said Dominguez, a 28-year-old native of Venezuela. "He's never done that before. He found his best stride around the quarter pole and came home very strongly.
"So I guess it's good to know that he can be versatile and come from off of it as well. And then he showed, too, there was no question about his ability to handle the grass. This race seemed to give him a lot of dimensions."
Dominguez, who rode Better Talk Now to an upset win last month in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Lone Star Park, will return to Hollywood Park next week to ride him in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT).
"He's a cool rider, this kid, so I wasn't panicking with him," said Frankel, who has saddled a record four Miesque winners. "I brought him in because I had two horses to ride and he's a good rider. I've been dying to ride him."
Geronimo, who took up sharply after the break and was last, rallied for second under Corey Nakatani, edging 22-1 Mighty Beau and Garrett Gomez by a neck. Golden Arrow finished fourth. The final time was 1:02 on a firm course.
Nakatani, who rode Paddy's Daisy to victory in the second division of the Miesque, ran out of luck with Geronimo.
"He got wiped out at the start," he said. "I even called the stewards and asked them, 'What's the story?' Are they going to let the guys ride that way? I thought it was ridiculous. They completely wiped my horse out at the start. Otherwise, it would have been a good race. I don't know if I could have caught the big winner. But still I would have had a chance to win it if I hadn't been wiped out at the start."
The 7-year-old Australian-bred De Valmont, with Victor Espinoza aboard, blitzed to the front and set hot fractions of :21 1/5, 43 3/5 and :56. He led by about three lengths in upper stretch but paid for the early pace in the end.
Cajun Beat was second in is only previous start on the grass, a fvie-furlong classified allowance heat at Churchill Downs in June 2003. He won for the second time in six outings in 2004. He was out of action for more than six months earlier this year before emerging again as part of Frankel's stable.
His record improved to 7-3-0 in 17 lifetime starts while upping his earnings to $1,159,100.
The slight favorite in the field of nine, Cajun Beat paid $6.40, $3.80 and $3.20. Geronimo returned $3.80 and 42.80. Mighty Beau, the former Steve Asmussen runner making his first start for Jeff Mullins, was $6.60 to show.
De Valmont finished behind Golden Arrow in fifth, followed by Worldwind Romance, Hombre Rapido, Only the Best and Coded Message.