Irish-bred Stratham rallied along the inside under jockey David Cohen to win Sunday's $100,000 Will Rogers (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the Hollywood Park turf by three-quarters of a length over New Joysey Jeff, registering his third win in four North American starts.
Stratham, overlooked in wagering in spite of winning the La Puente Stakes on the Santa Anita lawn at the Will Rogers distance of one mile in his most recent start, clocked a solid time of 1:34 and paid $16.20, $6 and $4.20. New Joysey Jeff, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., paid $5 and $4.40. The show payoff on Obrigado, Corey Nakatani aboard, was $5.60.
Corazondelcampeon, the 2-1 favorite in the field of seven, was hard to hold out of the gate and set the fractions (:24, :47 1/5, 1:10 3/5) while jockey Patrick Valenzuela struggled to slow him down before they gave way approaching the eighth pole. New Jorsey Jeff struck the lead on the outside, but Stratham, who saved ground while stalking the pace into the stretch, soon edged to the front and held on gamely over his determined challenger. Corazondelcampeon faded to sixth.
"We got the pace scenario we wanted," Cohen said. "It was an easy pace, which allowed him to position himself close and not have to do too much to pounce on the leaders. Really, it was in my hands the whole race, and he gave me the confidence I felt, just like last time (in the La Puente). Every time he took another step, I could tell that there was going to be more available."
Stratham, a son of Mozart-Bean Island (Afleet) owned by Jerry Jamgotchian, won two of seven starts in Europe last year. The bay colt captured the Pinjara Stakes while making his North American debut during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa in October and is two-for-three in 2006. The winner's share of $60,000 boosted his earnings to $191,933.
"I asked David if he could try to save ground, because we were stepping up in competition," said trainer Tim Yakteen, who got his first Hollywood Park stakes win. "I definitely think it was a much more competitive bunch that we ran against today as opposed to last time."
Corey County finished fourth. Niagara Causeway, Corazondelcampeon and Silver Crest followed.
The upset helped set up a two-day Pick Six carryover of $616,240 when racing resumes at the Inglewood, Calif., track on Wednesday.