Front-running Irish Gypsy, all-out under urging from Martin Garcia, got to the wire in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap (gr. II) by an official nose over favored Ultra Blend at Hollywood Park July 16 (VIDEO).
It was hard to detect any difference between the two mares in the finish line photo of the seven-furlong race, but stewards were able to somehow separate them after a lengthy review, awarding the victory to 5-1 shot Irish Gypsy. She won in a time of 1:22.44 on the Cushion Track. Second choice Tanda finished third.
Remarkably, the tight finish came three races after Nereid and Cambina finished in on equal terms in the $250,000 American Oaks (gr. IT), the first dead-heat finish in a graded stakes race at Hollywood Park since December 2002.
It was a big call since the decision carried with it a starting slot in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. II) as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
“You know what, I think this looked more like a dead heat than the American Oaks," said Garcia, who was on Cambina in the earlier race. "In the American Oaks, you could really see my horse in front of the other but man this was close. But I won, that’s the main thing."
It was the first win in the A Gleam for trainer Bob Baffert and Garcia. Mike Pegram and John Sikura own Irish Gypsy, who won her third consecutive race for Baffert, all in stakes. The 5-year-old daughter of Hennessy out of the stakes-winning Relaunch mare Rayelle, bred by Jerry and Ann Moss in Kentucky, earned her first graded triumph.
Irish Gypsy took the early lead from Mildly Offensive and led Fund Raiser and Church Camp through the opening half-mile. Ultra Blend, ridden by David Flores, trailed in the field of nine older fillies and mares. The fractions were a solid :22.93 and :45.73. Irish Gypsy inched away in the lane to lead by 1 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch with Tanda and Mildly Offensive taking up the chase.
Ultra Blend was sixth at that point and driving four paths wide. She closed gamely in the final furlong and appeared to put her nose in front just before the wire, but just missed. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Tanda and Victor Espinoza in third.
"She’s been improving a lot every race," Garcia said of the winner. "All I did was let her break and let her be where she wanted to be. She’s not so big, so I just didn’t want to bug her too much. I thought there would be more speed than showed up, that’s why I just let her go on her own.”
Flores accepted the tough-luck defeat on Ultra Blend.
“After I watched the replay, it was so close I was just hoping that a dead heat would be great," Flores said. "I’ve got to give big credit to this mare. She gave a great effort. The wire just came one jump too early. She’s very honest. She gives everything she has.”
Irish Gypsy was coming off a 1 1/4-length win in the Desert Stormer Handicap June 19 at Hollywood, the win coming three weeks after she captured the Valid Expectations Stakes at Lone Star Park. She improved her career mark to 6-4-1 in 14 starts with earnings of $359,420.
“She had some small issues, ankles and little things off and on," said Mike Marlow, Baffert's assistant. "But we’ve got her rolling now. She’s had some time to develop. She’s getting stronger as she gets older. She’s better now than she’s ever been."
Sent off as the fourth choice, Irish Gypsy carried top weight of 120 pounds and paid $12, $5.60, $3.60. Ultra Blend, runner-up in the 1 1/16-mile Milady Handicap (gr. II) May 21 at Hollywood for trainer Art Sherman, returned $4.80 and $2.80, and rounded out a $47.60 exacta. Tanda, a grade III winner switching from the turf for Dan Hendricks, was $2.80 to show.
Then came Mildly Offensive, Washington Bridge, Fund Raiser, Shotgun Gulch, Church Camp, and American Story.
The result was incorrectly posted as official at the track with Washington Bridge listed in fourth for superfecta payoff. After approximately two minutes, officials corrected the error, putting Mildly Offensive in the fourth spot. She finished a nose in front of Washington Bridge, according to the official race chart.
The superfecta payoff with Washington Bridge in fourth paid $847.80 for a $1 wager. The correct payoff with Mildly Offensive was worth $611.30. It was not immediately known how many bettors collected on the incorrect payout.
“The minute we noticed it we called mutuels and had them stop and recalculate and had them put up the correct number,” steward Kim Sawyer told Daily Racing Form.