Alex Solis said he wanted to kick himself after waiting too long to move Runaway Dancer in his last start, the Round Table Handicap. He didn't make the same mistake Sunday in winning the $150,400 Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the final day of the Hollywood Park spring/summer meeting.
RL Stables' late-running 8-year-old Runaway Groom gelding was some 20 lengths behind the runaway pacesetter Bright Prediction early on and still trailed the field coming off the final turn in the 1 1/2-mile turf test. Solis guided Runaway Dancer between Spring House and favored Stormin Away in the stretch to challenge for the lead and pulled away in the final furlong for a convincing 2 1/4-length win in 2:27 3/5 on firm going.
Fitz Flag, rallying on the outside for G.F. Almeida, settled for second by one length over Spring House.
Runaway Dancer earned his first victory since taking the Escondido at Del Mar nearly one year ago, ending a seven-race losing streak. Trained by Dan Hendricks, Runaway Dancer earned $96,240 for the eighth win of his 39-race career and has now banked $788,284 lifetime.
"He might not win that often, but he's a favorite around the barn," Hendricks said. "He always gives his best, and he's been around for so long. He's 8 years old. That makes him special to all of us.
"He always seems to fire every race but, even in his bad races, there are circumstances that change the outcome. He’s not a great horse that can overcome a lot of adversity but, when things set up right, he can put up some fantastic finishes. We’re probably going to go to the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) with the slightest possibility of the Pacific Classic (gr. I). I’m anxious to see how he trains on the Polytrack down there.”
This was the fourth consecutive start in the Sunset for Runaway Dancer, who ran sixth last year.
Solis said he felt Runaway Dancer should have won his most recent start, the 1 3/4-mile Round Table on the Hollywood turf a month ago. "I wanted to kick myself you know where. I was pretty disappointed that day," he said
Runaway Dancer finished third in the Round Table, 2 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Stormin Away and Spring House. Runaway Dancer has now won twice in 13 Hollywood Park turf starts and three times in 17 tries at the 12-furlong distance.
Bright Prediction made the early lead and set strong fractions for the distance -- :24 4/5, :48 1/5, 1:12 3/5 and 1:38 -- while opening a 12-length lead over Stormin Away and Spring House after the opening half-mile. He began to back up, though, approaching the final turn, and both Stormin Away and Spring House edged past on the turn.
Runaway Dancer, angled in by Solis soon after the start, was making good ground on the final turn and continued to run well after angling out in the stretch to record a surprisingly easy victory after drawing away from Fitz Flag and Spring House.
“(Bright Prospector) running off was good for all of us, actually," Solis said. "It was a decent pace, and I was very happy where my horse was. I just wanted to make sure he didn't lose touch with the field. This time I stayed close to them and, when I asked him at the quarter pole, he did his stuff. As soon as I caught up with the field, he got real game. Luckily, I found a little seam in the stretch to go through."
Sent off as the third choice in the field of six, Runaway Dancer paid $8.40, $4.60, and $3.40.
Fitz Flag, coming off a fourth-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT), tired late and returned $5.40 and $2.80.
“He was in a good spot and tried very hard," Almeida said. "He ran a lot better today than last time."
Spring House was $3.40 to show with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard.
Rush Rush was edged by a half-length for third. He was followed by 2-1 choice Stormin Away and Bright Prediction,