Odds-on choice American Lion showed some greenness but found his best stride in the lane to post a half-length victory in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) (VIDEO) in his stakes debut for trainer Eoin Harty Nov. 21 at Hollywood Park.
Third behind a pair of smart 2-year-olds from the Bob Baffert barn while struggling on the turn for jockey Julien Leparoux, American Lion responded to vigorous handling to gain the lead at the sixteenth pole. The son of Tiznow inched away from there under left-handed urging and held off the late charge of 20-1 shot Get My Fix in the final strides.
The winning bay colt completed the seven-furlong distance in a solid 1:22.49 and becomes a leading contender for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 19 over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood.
"This was a good learning experience for him,” said Kentucky-based Leparoux, who also flew in to ride 2006 Prevue winner Belgravia. “He needs to learn more and he's still a big baby. That's good though, because he's still winning. When the other horse came up to him at the wire, he just took off again. It's not like's he's tired or anything. He's just a little green, but he's a nice horse."
Harty, looking ahead, said American Lion would definitely be pointed to the CashCall Futurity. Doug Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farms owns American Lion and bred him in Kentucky along with Dr. William Lockridge.
"It's a lot of fun, but now you really start worrying," Harty said of having a top juvenile. "You don't get much sleep between now and Derby Day. It's already set in (Derby Fever). I thought this was a real quality 2-year-old.
“Coming down the stretch he was flicking his ears and looking at everything. But there's plenty of time to correct that before Derby Day, if we get that far. At the three-eighths pole I thought he was in trouble. It looked like he was under a ride and going nowhere. But he got to running in the lane."
Following a second-place finish in his debut at Arlington Park in September, American Lion turned in one of the most impressive maiden efforts of the brief Keeneland fall meet when he bolted to a 6 3/4-length triumph for Leparoux at seven furlongs on the Polytrack Oct. 18. He has been training forwardly at Santa Anita for the past month.
After breaking sharply, American Lion settled into second while three wide as the Baffert-trained Macias showed the way and his Indian Firewater stalked in third along the rail. The opening quarter-mile went in :22.59. Indian Firewater made an early move on the backstretch to push Macias along as they ran the half in :45.81 while American Lion continued to race wide. As they made their way around the big Hollywood Park turn, it looked like Macias and Indian Firewater would pull away with Leparoux scrubbing on his charge at the quarter pole.
American Lion was still third at the eighth pole, but was closing in while three deep. He gained a slim edge at the sixteenth pole, and as Macias and Indian Firewater weakened, American Lion gained control. Get My Fix, fifth at the furlong mark with Joe Talamo aboard, came on strong but ran out of room while closing much ground on American Lion's outside. Third place went to 29-1 Seattle Ruler, ridden by Martin Garcia, who also finished willingly after splitting horses in deep stretch. He was three parts of a length behind the runner-up.
Macias settled for fourth, followed by Indian Firewater. Tribal Face, Pico Pico, and Purse Luva trailed.
American Lion, who is out of the Storm Cat mare Storm Tide, boosted his earnings to $95,600. He began his career with trainer Richard Budge, for whom he made his first start.
The winner paid $3.40, $2.80 and $2.60. Get My Fix, who was coming off a maiden win at Santa Anita Oct. 10 for trainer Brian Koriner, returned $10.80 and $7.80. Seattle Ruler, winner of the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex prior to finishing ninth in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) in his most recent try Oct. 4, was $6.80 to show.