Odds-on Alphie's Bet, who missed a chance to run for the roses when he finished sixth in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) three weeks ago, proved a popular winner in his return to California-bred competition, making handy work of his rivals in the $200,000 TVG Snow Chief Stakes (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park April 24.
The son of Tribal Rule —Miss Alphie, by Candi's Gold, made it three wins in his last four starts in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief, restricted to 3-year-olds.
The 18th running of the Snow Chief was the marquee event of the $910,000 California Gold Rush program, a series of eight stakes races restricted to state-breds.
Alphie’s Bet, winner of the Sham Stakes (gr. III) in March, rebounded well from his loss in the Santa Anita Derby. He now has three wins in seven starts for owners Peter O. Johnson Sr. and Teresa McWilliams, who bred the colt, and trainer Alexis Barba. He has earned $261,320.
After breaking a step slow and saving ground early under Mike Smith, Alphie’s Bet advanced on the leaders rounding around the final turn while racing on the outside. He swept past pacesetter and 18-1 shot Working Capital in the final furlong.
Now 2-for-3 at 1 1/8 miles, Alphie’s Bet completed the distance in 1:51.15. The 7-10 favorite, he paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10.
"This makes up a bit for the Santa Anita Derby," said Johnson. "That was very disappointing to us. He ran five wide the entire way. Mike Smith did a great job with him. He ran his race today."
Smith, who was riding Alphie's Bet for the first time since a fourth-place effort against maidens last Dec. 5, believes Alphie’s Bet’s best days are ahead of him.
"He’s still a big, young boy and still has a lot of play in him," said the Hall of Fame rider. "He hasn’t really gotten serious about it yet. He is figuring it out race by race, and I think down the road they might have a really nice colt."
Making his second start for trainer Doug O’Neill after being claimed for $40,000 out of a maiden victory in March, Working Capital set the pace under Joel Rosario and paid $9.20 and $6.40. He finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Mr Tokyo, a 29-1 outsider who paid $6.80 to show.
Three races earlier, another prohibitive favorite got the job done. U R All That I Am, the 1-2 choice in a short field, won for the second time in as many starts on the Hollywood Park main track, taking the $147,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for owner-breeder Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, the 4-year-old filly prevailed by a half-length over Ruffled Feathers. The final time for the 7 1/2 furlongs was 1:30.81. Lady Alex finished third.
A daughter of Valid Wager out of the Fort Calgary mare Fort Silver, U R All That I Am has now won seven of 14 and earned $270,188. She paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10.
Joel Rosario, who was aboard U R All That I Am when she won the Cat’s Cradle here last Nov. 15, had to do some maneuvering en route to the finish. He wanted to avoid Witchy Meeting, who was running loose. The 6-year-old mare unseated David Flores after rearing at the start.
"All I wanted to do was keep her as far away from the loose horse as I could," said Rosario. "At about the five-sixteenths pole, I could see (Witchy Meeting) was drifting out a bit, so I made my move inside her. I knew I had a lot of horse, so I thought I could wait a little longer just to be safe."
Flores escaped injury and rode the remainder of the card. Flores gained the mount on Witchy Meeting when Joe Talamo was late returning from Louisville, where he had worked Kentucky Derby hopeful Sidney's Candy earlier in the day at Churchill Downs. He missed his first four rides on Saturday.
The biggest surprise in Gold Rush races worth more than six figures was provided by Fantasy Free in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes.
Dispatched at 10-1, the 5-year-old Free House gelding out of Cat Ballado, a Saint Ballado mare, rallied along the rail to win over Bestdressed and six others.
Saving ground throughout while racing just behind the early leaders, Fantasy Free and Omar Berrio found some room inside the final eighth of a mile and went on to the half-length victory. He paid $22.80, $8.60 and $5.60.
Trained by A. C. Avila for owner Roddy Valente, Fantasy Free won for the eighth time in 41 starts and has earned $299,884. The win was his second in six attempts since being claimed by his current connections for $25,000 last Dec. 12.
There was a milder upset in the $150,000 Melair Stakes. Camille C, the 3-1 second choice, never looked back in winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Salty Fries.
A 3-year-old Roman Dancer filly out of the Rahy mare Paris Operetta, Camille C won for the third time in 13 tries for owner Carlos Polanco and trainer Marcelo Polanco. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, she ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.57 and pushed her bankroll to $269,551. She paid $8.20, $4.60 and $2.20. Salty Fries returned $6.40 and $2.60.
La Nez, the odds-on favorite at 7-10 with Smith, never threatened. She wound up third, 9 1/4 lengths behind Camille C. She paid $2.10 to show.