Winning for the first time since April 2010, City to City came from off the rail in the lane to sweep past pacesetter Medaglia d'Amour in deep stretch and captured the $150,000 Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Del Mar Sept. 5.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who picked up his 6,000th win a day earlier at Golden Gate Fields, returned to the Del Mar winner's circle with City to City, who races in partnership for Hollendorfer, William DeBurgh, and Dr. Mark Dedominico.
“This filly came off a long layoff and to win a grade II race like this, I’m very proud of her,” Hollendorfer said. City to City had been off since July 2010 until a May 14 allowance race at Golden Gate Fields.
“We had to do surgery on her ankle," Hollendorfer explained. "We laid her up at Pegasus Training Center up near Seattle in Redmond, Washington. They did all the rehab on her and just did a fabulous job. We took our time with her and she has paid us back."
Garrett Gomez, aboard the the 4-year-old daughter of City Zip —Stormbow (by Storm Cat) for the first time, guided the chestnut filly to her sixth lifetime triumph by three-quarters of a length. Dr. D. Michael Cavey Jr. bred the winner in Kentucky.
City to City, sent off at odds of 5-1, completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:41.58 on a firm course.
Though often close, City to City had lost seven straight since winning Santa Anita's Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT) 17 months ago. In that span she had two seconds and three thirds, and was beaten by no more than one length in any of them.
In a great betting race, the favorite in the field of nine older fillies and mares, Go Forth North, went off at odds of 4-1.
City to City found a comfortable spot at the rail just in behind the leading group as Medaglia d'Amour, ridden by Joe Talamo, took the lead over Ninth Infantry, Andina, and It Tiz. Medaglia d'Amour was able to slow the tempo while maintaining command through quarter-mile fractions of :24.17, :48.59, and 1:12.13. City to City, after backing up a bit behind the slow pace on the backstretch, advanced into third rounding the final turn as Medaglia d'Amour continued to lead Ninth Infantry.
Medaglia d'Amour began edging away from Ninth Infantry as they left the turn, creating room for Gomez to angle City to City off the inside in upper stretch. After a brief hesitation, City to City responded to urging to challenge a game Medaglia d'Amour, who had a two-length advantage at mid-stretch. The winner took control inside the sixteenth pole.
"I snuggled her down inside early and liked my spot," Gomez said. "In the middle of the race there was some shifting and changing, but it worked out fine for me. Then in the end I liked my position, too.
"When we shifted out and went for our run in the stretch, her first response wasn’t a good one for me. I said ‘oh, oh.’ But then she got it and fired. Then we were good.”
A neck separated Medaglia d'Amour from the rallying third-place finisher Go Forth North, ridden by Martin Garcia. They nosed All Star Heart, also coming from off the pace in her stakes debut, for the show spot. Turning Top and Andina finished in a dead-heat for fifth. They were followed by second choice Well Monied, Ninth Infantry, and It Tiz.
City to City was coming off a third-place effort, finishing a head behind Palomar rival Andina, in Del Mar's Osunitas Stakes July 23. In her only other start over the course, she finished a close second to Evening Jewel in the one-mile San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) last year. City to City won for the second time in three starts at the 1 1/16-mile distance.
"I didn’t want to get trapped on the rail, but unfortunately she got caught in there again," Hollendorfer said. "But this time she got out in time."
A $50,000 Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association Sale purchase as a yearling in September 2008, City to City has banked $371,491 in a 19-race career that includes six wins, four seconds, and five thirds. The Palomar win was her first in four starts in 2011.
City to City paid $13.60, $6.60, $3.60. Medaglia d'Amour, making just her second start since winning the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park in May 2010, returned $6.40 and $5. The exacta was worth $106. Go Forth North, most recently a close fifth in the John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) at Del Mar Aug. 14, paid $4 to show.