From the Print Edition: Super Men at Hollywood Park

From the Print Edition: Super Men at Hollywood Park
Photo:
Trainer Robert Frankel.
Published in the Dec. 8 issue of The Blood-Horse
You can go home again. Sometimes, it's exactly what you need to perk up. That's all it took for Super Quercus and Men's Exclusive, a pair of Hollywood homeboys who cleaned house over the weekend of Dec. 1-2.

The $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) on Dec. 1 served as a career resurrection for Charles and Audrey Kenis' Super Quercus. For those who may have forgotten, his two-length return to glory was a proper reminder of the 5-year-old's untapped potential--and, perhaps, of things still to come.

It's been two years since the son of Hero's Honor sent waves of commotion through the Hollywood Turf Festival, his complete domination of the '99 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) stamping him as a star in the making. Then POOF! Before anyone knew it, Super Quercus vanished. Not a trace could be found.

He finally resurfaced nearly a year later, but by then, the magic was gone. The spark wasn't there. He connected together a decent series of races over the next few months, but it appeared the nagging aches and pains had taken their toll. This summer over the Del Mar turf, however, there was a sparkle of hope. A pair of strong thirds in the grade I Eddie Read and grade II Del Mar Handicaps indicated the promise was still there, and when he took the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT)--his first win in nearly two years--it was a signal.

On Dec. 1, he came home. Without the presence of a division leader in the bunch, an opportunistic field of nine left the gate in the 12-furlong Turf Cup. Fully aware of the 5-year-old's furious stretch kick, jockey Alex Solis eased Super Quercus to the fence after the break. From there, they simply set up camp in last, miles away from the run-off longshot Most Likely, who had cleared the field by 10 after a half-mile.

"It worked out perfectly," Solis later said. "The whole way he was just galloping. You go that kind of distance and you see a horse is five, six lengths in front, you're happy about it because you know sooner or later somebody is going to start making a move."

Led by Kudos, Kerrygold, and Northern Quest, the pack began to reel in Most Likely down the backstretch, finally swarming him on the turn. Super Quercus was still last at this point, though close enough to give his rider every option. Heading for home, Solis pulled the trigger.

Steered to the extreme outside, Super Quercus took off and inhaled the entire pack, so much so that Solis had time to wrap up before they hit the finish. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Super Quercus stopped the clock in 2:29.86, two lengths ahead of 53-1 Bonapartiste.

"It's a good feeling to know that he's back," Solis smiled.

While Super Quercus may be ready now to show his true stuff, Men's Exclusive continues to show there's plenty of fire left in his 8-year-old legs. Gene Reed's homebred son of Exclusive Ribot was at his best on Dec. 2, dogging Caller One into submission to win the $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III) for the second straight year.

It was sweet retribution for Men's Exclusive, who futilely chased Caller One in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-III) in March. The trip overseas came at a price.

"The problem with horses coming back from Dubai--my horse in particular--is that they take a little while to regain their form," said the gelding's trainer, Wesley Ward.

Following his return from Dubai, Men's Exclusive strung together a trio of subpar races. The six-furlong Underwood, however, showcased him at his peak.

Predictably, Caller One took the early initiative under Tyler Baze, but not even fractions of :22.02 and :44.32 were enough to get him a clear lead. Men's Exclusive, ridden by regular rider Laffit Pincay Jr., hounded him throughout, then delivered the final blow at the sixteenth pole. Charging to the front, Men's Exclusive pulled ahead to win by a half-length. Tavasco, a son of Tabasco Cat trainer by Kory Owens, got up late to edge Caller One for second.

The final time was 1:09.04, just two hundredths of a second slower than it took Men's Exclusive to pound another young bunch by three in last year's version. Following the race, Ward was quick to credit farrier Wes Champagne, whose glue-on horseshoeing technique has been the gelding's saving grace for the past few years.

And now that Men's Exclusive is back on track, his trainer envisions another strong winter of sprinting, one that will hopefully result in another crack at the Golden Shaheen. Wouldn't be too bad for a 9-year-old.

 

AT THE WIRE

Trainer Bobby Frankel may fall short of D. Wayne Lukas' standard of 22 grade I wins in a single year, but he's gonna come awfully close. Super Quercus gave Frankel his 17th grade I winner of 2001, and he'll have a few more shots to boost his total before the year's out. Frankel plans to run Labamta Babe in the Dec. 15 Hollywood Futurity and You in the Hollywood Starlet a day later. He'll also toss Mizzen Mast, a recent stakes winner on grass, into Santa Anita's Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26 against the likes of Yonaguska, I Love Silver, Early Flyer, Waingarth, and Millennium Wind...Chris McCarron, meanwhile, is a stakes win shy of supplanting Bill Shoemaker as Hollywood Park's all-time leading stakes-winning jockey. The Hall of Famers are currently tied atop the list with 280 apiece. Laffit Pincay Jr. may get them both, however. Men's Exclusive gave the soon-to-be 55-year-old his 279th stakes win at Hollywood...Trainer Simon Bray has a young filly to watch. Her name is Renaissance Woman. The 2-year-old daughter of Deputy Minister stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs and broke her maiden by an easy three lengths. She races for her breeders, Pam and Marty Wygod...Cottonwood Cowboy should be one to track over the next few months as well. Trained by Christopher Paasch, the 2-year-old Meadowlake colt looked strong taking a 7 1/2-furlong allowance on Dec. 1. He's now won two straight for owners Lorraine and Rod Rodriguez...It was back in July that trainer Vladimir Cerin claimed Beloved for $50,000. The 4-year-old Wild Again filly gave him her best race yet on Nov. 30, edging the highly regarded Mon Ange and stakes-winning Cee's Elegance going 1 1/16 miles. A daughter of the stakes-winning Garden Gal, Beloved is owned by Rosendo G. Parra...Alex Solis went down hard on the turf Dec. 2 in an accident that took the life of the filly Sweet Defense. After skipping a race to ice an ankle, he was able to ride the day's final two races...Good luck to Panamanian apprentice jockey Elvis Trujillo. Just 18 and fresh from a successful stint in Mexico City, Trujillo made the most of his U.S. debut on Nov. 28, winning the day's first race aboard Britetonzmyday for trainer Wesley Ward.  

(Chart, Equibase)

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