Mike Smith was able to save ground while stalking the pace mid-pack aboard Warning Zone, a 4-year-old Chester House colt. Under Smith's urging, Warning Zone drove through on the inside of the tiring front-runner Boule d'Or near the furlong marker and skipped away to a one-length win over heavily favored Cedar Mountain, who never threatened the winner in the 1 1/2-mile turf tilt. Porfido finished third.
Owned by Rising Sun Racing Stable, Warning Zone won for the first time since taking the War Chant Stakes in November on the Hollywood lawn, where he has now won three times in six tries. The bay also won the Generous (gr. IIIT) as a 2-year-old there for his only prior graded win.
Sadler, 51, who won the 2007 Autumn meet training title at Hollywood as well, picked up his 30th victory at the stand. Doug O'Neill, with 23 wins, finished second.
“I think the highlight of this meeting was Black Mamba for me because she’s been such a nice mare," Sadler said in reference to the New Zealand mare's win in the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) July 2. "She’s run with Citronnade, Nashoba’s Key, Precious Kitten and for me that race was great. Obviously that weekend was a highlight -- four stakes in two days. I’ve been here a long time, been a lot of years as a blue-collar consistent type trainer and now we’re going up a level. It’s a lifetime of work.”
Warning Zone had run well in turf marathons this spring at Santa Anita, finishing a close third behind Boule d'Or in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) in March and second in the about 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) behind Big Booster a month later. After a brief freshening, the Viriginia-bred returned to run fifth in Hollywood's Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) June 7. Sadler warned, however, that the Whittingham's 10-furlong distance wasn't long enough for his charge and predicted a much stronger effort in the Sunset.
“At Santa Anita he was peaking at the longer distances," Sadler said. "It was a very good second in the San Juan Capistrano."
As expected, the Irish-bred Boul d'Or got away to the early lead and was tracked by Porfido, Storm Trooper and Transduction Gold through lax quarter-mile fractions of :25.29, :49.68 and 1:13.54. Boule d'Or led by about five lengths at that point but as the field reached the final turn, the advantage was shrinking. The Chilean-bred Porfido, ridden by David Flores, got the lead briefly in the stretch as Boul d'Or gave way while drifting out. Warning Zone, running fourth along the inside, had all the room he needed with Smith guiding the way and the challenger responded when asked to lead by daylight approaching the sixteenth pole.
"I saw (Boule d'Or) getting out a little bit so I knew when he had to ask him he was probably going to drift off," Smith said. "So I went for it and it worked out. (Warning Zone) was sitting on a big race and he really looked the part, too. You can't go far enough for him. A mile and one-half, a mile and three-quarters, he loves it."
Cedar Mountain, the 13-10 favorite under Rafael Bejarano, attacked on the outside from near the back of the pack but was compromised by the lack of pace in the end and had to settle for second, a half-length better than Porfido.
The winning time was a so-so 2:26.95 over firm footing.
Sent off as the second choice, Warning Zone paid $10.80, $4 and $3.20 while topping a $2 exacta worth $28.60 with Cedar Mountain, who returned $2.80 and $2.40 in quest of his third consecutive win for trainer Neil Drysdale. Porfido, from the Bobby Frankel barn, was $3.60 to show.
Warning Zone earned $97,200 for his fourth lifetime win in 15 starts while ending a seven-race losing streak. He has banked $341,310 in his career.
Edward P. Evans bred Warning Zone, who sold for $60,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2005. The winner is out of the Storm Bird mare Migrate.
Transduction Gold finished fourth, followed by Church Service, Boule d'Or and Storm Trooper.
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