Grade I winner Willa B Awesome, sent off as a heavy favorite in the $288,000 Melair Stakes, was all out to win by a nose over a determined Starry Skies at Befair Hollywood Park April 28. (VIDEO)
While the Melair was the most exciting race of the California Gold Rush program, jockey Rafael Bejarano had the most to celebrate. The 29-year-old native of Peru, who became a United States citizen a day earlier, won five races, including the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes aboard Unusual Heatwave.
In addition to his victory in the Snow Chief, Bejarano was aboard Streakin' Mohican in a $32,000 claiming race in which the 5-year-old gelding set a Hollywood turf course record for six furlongs in 1:07.24 on firm going. Bejarano also had stakes wins on Mobilized in the $125,000 Tiznow Stakes, on Gatheratthealter in the $72,800 Grey Memo Stakes, and on Warren's Jitterbug in the $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes.
The California Gold Rush consisted of eight stakes for state-breds worth about $1.1 million.
Willa B Awesome, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 31, was expected to have an easy time of it against five sophomore filly rivals in the Melair. The 124-pound high weight, after tracking pacesetter Starry Skies into the stretch, put her head in front but had trouble to putting Starry Skies away. Ridden on the outside by Martin Pedroza, Willa B Awesome would prevail at the wire under strong urging from Martin Pedroza.
Owned by her breeder Terry Lovingier in partnership with Phil Daniels, Patsy London, and John Winters, the chestnut filly Willa B Awesome ($4.20) earned her fifth lifetime win for trainer Walther Solis in 13 starts. The victory for the daughter of Awesome Gambler--Cause I'm Tricky, by Nineeleven, was worth $165,000 and extended her earnings to $593,896.
Willa B Awesome won the 1 1/18-mile event in 1:53.33 on a fast track. Starlight Magic finished 3 1/2 lengths farther back in third.
In the Snow Chief for 3-year-olds, Unusual Heatwave rallied from eighth on the far turn for Bejarano to produce a half-length victory over favored Stoney Fleece. Dylan Donnelly finished third. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile distance was 1:51.63.
Alexis Barba is the winning conditioner for owners Peter and Ellen Johnson and Teres McWilliams.
Unusual Heatwave ($7.40), sent off as the second choice in the field of 10, is by Unusual Heat—Miss Alphie, by Candi's Gold. The bay colt won for the second time in nine starts and boosted his bankroll to $265,262.
Bejarano was also aboard 11-1 upsetter Warren's Jitterbug, a half-length winner over Going for a Spin in the 7 1/2-furlong B. Thoughtful for older fillies and mares. Sister Kate finished third while favored Halo Dolly weakened to fifth after setting the pace.
Ben Warren's 5-year-old homebred daughter of Affirmative—Jitterbug Jan, by Peaks and Valleys picked up her fourth victory for trainer Jorge Gutierrez in 24 lifetime starts. She has earned $355,994.
Warren's Jitterbug ($25) was timed in 1:31.44.
Mobilized, with Bejarano aboard, turned in the most explosive effort of the day in the Tiznow, rallying from last in the field of eight to romp by 7 1/4 lengths over 2-1 choice Italian Rules, who was second. Mobilized ($7.80), the second choice, turned his big effort in the 7 1/2-furlong event even though Bejarano dropped his whip at the quarter pole. Kingpin Ryno finished third. Final time was 1:29.47.
Gary Mandella trains Mobilized for the Estate of Robert Reseigne, which bred the 6-year-old horse, and Double JH Stables. Mobilized is by Soul of the Matter—Valleyofthebells, by Red Ransom.