Under an emphatic ride from Patrick Valenzuela, Herrick Racing LLC's Short Route wore down the heavy favorite Inspiring to win the $109,700-added Railbird (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies by a head at Hollywood Park Sunday.
Inspiring, under pressure from the rail, nearly took them gate to wire for David Flores in spite of setting a sizzling pace, giving up her lead in the final strides. She finished second as the 3-2 choice by a 1 1/4 lengths over Off the Richter.
The California homebred Short Route benefitted from the hot pace and a five-pound spread in weights from the favorite, who carried 123. Racing on the outside of the frontrunners while within striking distance of the leaders, she came on after Inspiring shook off Donna's Doll and appeared to be pulling away in the stretch. Under strong urging from Valenzuela, Short Route, a chestnut filly by Mud Route
-Short Call (Phone Trick), eventually drew to even terms with Inspiring and was inching away as they reached the wire.
"She was sitting there in the catbird seat," Valenzuela said after riding Short Route for the first time. "When Flores opened up at the head of the lane, I had plenty of filly to get next to him, and my filly just outfinished him, outgamed him."
The final time for the seven-furlong Railbird was 1:22 4/5.
Valenzuela won a record fifth Railbird and his third in the past four years. He also swept the stakes races at Hollywood Park on the opening weekend of the spring/summer meeting. He won Saturday's Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) with King of Happiness.
Trained by Joe Herrick for his parents, Bill and Donna Herrick, Short Route won for the second time in three starts at the seven-eighths distance, her only loss a runner-up finish by a half-length to No Bull Baby in the Mocassin last November at Hollywood. She has had one previous start in 2005, running seventh in the Sunshine Millions Oaks on a wet-fast Santa Anita track Jan. 29.
Overall, she's won three of seven with earnings $172,815. Sunday's victory was worth $65,820.
"She'd been training awfully good lately," Herrick said after picking up his first Hollywood Park stakes victory. "She came out of the Sunshine Millions with a bruised right front foot. So we just regrouped, gave her a little bit of time, then came back and started working her. She's grown up; she's more physically mature. She put on about 100 pounds of muscle."
Donna's Doll, the 2-1 second choice fcing winners for the first time, broke best and went head-to-head with Inspiring on her inside through fractions of :21 3/5 and :44 before she quickly backed out of the fray on the turn. Inspiring completed the six furlongs in 1:09 2/5 and battled home with Short Route in a final eighth of :13 2/5.
"This filly just has so much heart, and she's so fast," Flores said of Inspiring. "I was just starting to get her relaxed and maybe get in the clear without pushing her. I was finally able to do it on the turn and give her a breather. Then she went back on again.
"She got beat, but she never gave up."
Off the Richter, ridden by Garrett Gomez, rallied mildly to edge Island Escape for third.
Pegasus Rose finished fifth, followed by Conveyor's Angel, Donna's Doll and Good Lord Laurie.
As the third choice in the field of eight, Short Route paid $11, $4.40 and $3.60. Inspiring, who won the Sorrento (gr. III) at Del Mar in August and was making her second start as a 3-year-old, returned $3.40 and $2.80. Off the Richter, who had a two-race winning streak snapped, was $5.40 to show.