Willow O Wisp turned the tables on odds-on favorite Osidy with a front-running win in the $153,450 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the Hollywood Park lawn Sunday.
With leading Hollywood Park jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, the bay gelding was more than ready for the expected late charge from 9-10 choice Osidy. The Florida-bred son of Misnomer was pulling away at the end of the 1 1/8-mile Cinema to win by two lengths in a time of 1:48 2/5.
In their last meeting May 28, Osidy overtook Willow O Wisp in the one-mile Will Rogers (gr. IIIT) on the Hollywood turf to win by a head. Both horses carried 119 pounds. Honorable Coach finished third in the five-horse field.
Willow O Wisp, who registered his first graded stakes triumph, has now won two of three since being transferred from Florida to the Southern California stable of Vladimir Cerin this season by owner Robert A. Alexander.
In spite of their closeness in the Will Rogers, the public sided heavily with Osidy, a son Storm Cat
who was ridden by Alex Solis, who won four races on the Hollywood Park card. Cerin said he wasn't surprised.
"Osidy is really well bred and he looks like a horse who was waiting to stretch out," Cerin said. "But, there was a three-pound switch in the weights."
Willow O Wisp was in control from the outset. Gomez said he "was wondering where everybody was at" as he took an easy lead while cutting out an opening quarter-mile of :25. Honorable Coach, ridden by Victor Espinoza, soon moved up on the outside to lend some pressure as Willow O Wisp continued to lead through a :48 4/5-half mile and six furlongs in 1:12 4/5.
Gomez said Willow O Wisp is maturing.
"He was ready to go when they kicked the latch," Gomez said. "I had a good feeling when I got to the first turn. He was doing it the right way. Looking around still, but he was relaxed and running straight. And I think the farther the better for him. He's growing up."
Gomez edged Willow O Wisp away from Honorable Coach at the head of the stretch and Osidy launched his bid after tracking the leaders along the inside. But Willow O Wisp was prepared for it and had plenty left as he stormed home well in front.
"Garrett Gomez simply rode a great race," Solis said. "He got an easy lead, and he got the jump on me. I had a little bit of a problem at the three-sixteenth pole, and Garrett got the jump on me. So it was tough, and it takes a little while for my horse to get in gear. We just couldn't catch him today."
Cerin said, "(Willow O Wisp) was best and certainly more than good enough. I think the longer he goes, the better he'll get.
"He's just a very neat horse, except for the part where he almost took my head off saddling him."
He said he's aiming the winner for the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Sept. 5. The La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT), also for 3-year-olds at 1 1/6 miles, is Aug. 13 at Del Mar.
"I think we'll just wait for the (Del Mar) Derby," Cerin said. "He's run three hard races here. We're really happy with the win."
Fred W. Pace bred Willow O Wisp, who was produced by the Woodman mare Willow Woodman.
Willow O. Wisp, who won once in seven tries in Florida as a 2-year-old, earned $95,670 for his third career victory and has now banked $179,240. The 5-2 third choice paid $7.60, $3 and $2.20. Osidy, graded stakes-placed in France before beginning his United States career in April, returned $2.40 and $2.10. Honorable Coach, the longest shot in the field at 21-1, was $2.60 to show.
Legal Precedent, sent off as the 2-1 second choice off two impressive victories in turf routes to begin his career, finished fourth. Johnny High Brite trailed.