Cambina, Nereid in American Oaks Dead-Heat
Cambina, narrowly avoiding a collision in mid-stretch, re-gathered herself and surged between horses in the final strides to finish in a dead-heat for the win with pacesetting Nereid in a spectacular finish to the $250,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park July 16 (VIDEO) .
The dead-heat was the first in a grade I at Hollywood Park since the Richard Mandella-trained pair of Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest finished on even terms in the Beverly Hills Handicap June 30, 1990. The most recent stakes dead-heat at Hollywood prior to the American Oaks was between Surya and Tout Charmant in the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 21, 2002
It was also the first grade I victory for both 3-year-old fillies. Nereid, in fact, was making her stakes debut for trainer John Shirreffs and has now won three in a row. Cambina, trained by red-hot Jeff Bonde, was coming off a fast-closing third-place finish in the nine-furlong Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood June 11.
Kentucky invader Bizzy Caroline, the 6-5 choice after handily winning the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs one month ago, finished willingly as well after pressing the pace. She was fifth, beaten by less than a length for it all. The final time was 2:01.46 over firm going.
"I told Rosario to go to the lead and I was going to stalk, but his horse stumbled a little bit," Talamo said in describing his trip on Nereid. "Then I was sitting off Victor (Espinoza on Love Theway Youare) and his horse kind of propped and I inherited the lead. I really didn’t want to. She was doing it so easy.
Garcia, after the rough ride on Cambina, said he would look forward to a rematch with Nereid.
"I don’t know who came in or out, but I had to completely pull her up," Garcia said of the near-collision. "It’s a good thing I didn’t fall. I rode her with so much confidence. I know she can really finish, that’s the way she likes to run."
Shirreffs, who won the American Oaks last year with Harmonious, said he ran both Star Billing and Nereid in the race because he felt they both deserved a shot to win a grade I.
“Having two horses in the race, I thought that Star Billing would have the lead and Nereid could go to a stalking position," he said. "So when the gate opened and Star Billing stumbled, everything changed. You always worry late in the race, the last two or three strides is where a horse is susceptible. You wonder where the turf course wire is. When you’re watching the race in real time, it’s hard to predict exactly where the wire is."
“It’s always good to win," Bonde said. "John Shirreffs is a good friend of mine and if I had to tie with somebody, I’m glad it was him. I was very concerned there when she got tangled up, and to her credit she re-rallied and made a race of it. She’s a very game horse with a good turn of foot."
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