Odds-on choice Black Mamba always seems to run her race, and in the $147,000 Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park June 28, the grinding effort was just good enough for the New Zealand-bred mare to make it consecutive wins in the 1 1/4-mile turf event.
Under a strong drive from jockey Garrett Gomez, Black Mamba caught Charming Legacy just before the wire to win by a head in a sharp time of 1:59.72 on a firm course.
The feature event for fillies and mares was reduced to just four entrants by a pair of scratches. With Black Mamba's late running style, the short field didn't figure to give the 6-year-old bay much to shoot at.
But the pace set by You Lift Me Up was a surprisingly strong one. You Lift Me Up, pushed along initially by a pulling Toque de Queda, and then by Charming Legacy, posted fractions of :23.53, :47.14, and 1:11.01. Charming Legacy wasn't responding on the final turn as You Lift Me Up inched away and she came under the whip from Joe Talamo as they left the bend for the homestretch.
Charming Legacy, with Talamo still working her strongly, gained a short lead from a stubborn You Lift Me Up with less than a furlong to run. Black Mamba, who trailed most of the way but was always in touch with her rivals, rallied under left-handed by Gomez in the lane and got there just in time to defeat a determined Charming Legacy.
"She didn't make anything easy for me today,” Gomez said. “The fractions were honest enough, but she's a little one-paced. She's just kind of steady and long-striding -- she just keeps coming. Today I thought she would take it to 'em somewhere along the way, but she really wouldn't help out too much. She made my job a little more difficult. But she got the job done and hopefully she'll get some confidence back from this race."
Talamo had similar difficulty with Charming Legacy.
"It took her a real long time to get going today,” Talamo said. “I had to really get into her from the three-eighths pole to the five-sixteenths. Once she got by the leader, she leveled off, but she just got out-run that last bit."
Black Mamba, who carried top weight of 120 pounds, became the fifth repeat winner of the Beverly Hills in the race's 44-year history. The others are La Zanzara (1974-75), Swingtime (1977-78), Flawlessly (1992-93), and Astra (2001-02).
“They’re never easy are they?” winning trainer John Sadler said. “When do I get an easy one? This is the fifth stakes win of the meet and we’re happy. Her style is to close. She doesn’t have a dimension where she can lay up close. This race wasn’t really set up for us. Less horses doesn’t necessarily help us. It did keep us from going wide and the time was good.”
Owned by Doubledown Stables, Black Mamba recorded her first stakes win in last year's race, coming from off the pace to defeat Solva by 1 1/4 lengths. She became a grade I winner in her next start by capturing the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar.
She could wind up in that race again, but Sadler said afterward that the connections are also considering the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) down the road. Black Mamba, of course, began her career in New Zealand, where she won once in 10 starts.
"She's not nominated to the Breeders' Cup but she's Melbourne Cup eligible, so it's something we're thinking about," Sadler said. "We've got all of her vaccination shots up."
Black Mamba, a daughter of Black Minnaloushe out of the New Zealand mare Sneetch, by Grosvenor, improved her career mark to 5-7-3 in 26 starts with earnings of $808,851. Ending a five-race losing streak since the Mabee victory, she was coming off a fourth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Gamely (gr. IT) at Hollywood. Black Mamba was extremely wide that day and also appreciated the added distance this time around. Keltern Stud is with winning breeder.
Sent off at odds of 7-10, she paid $3.40 and $2.20 while topping a $2 exacta worth $9.80 with Charming Legacy, who returned $3.20.
You Lift Me Up, ridden by Joel Rosario, finished two lengths behind in third. Toque de Queda trailed. There was no show wagering after the scratches of Hot n' Dusty and Restless Soul.