Unbridled Command, making his first appearance outside of New York, stepped into grade I company with an impressive victory in the $250,000 Hollywood Derby (VIDEO), the final race of the 2012 Turf Festival at Betfair Hollywood Park Nov. 25.
The New York-bred son of Master Command overpowered a 14-horse field in the 10-furlong event, circling his rivals on the far turn and opening up an insurmountable lead in the final furlong at odds of 7-1 under Javier Castellano. The triumph, by 1 1/2 lengths, was the fifth in a row for the good-looking gray/roan colt.
Grandeur, the mild 7-2 favorite, made a big run from last on the far outside to take second by a head over Lucky Chappy.
Castellano salvaged a difficult day in the Hollywood Derby after his favored filly, Dayatthespa, lost all chance when she spooked and tried to jump the fence in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) earlier on the program.
"I had a beautiful trip this time and everything worked out perfect," said Castellano after his first try aboard Unbridled Command. "I saw the horses start backing out and I chose to go around and it worked out perfect. I knew the closers would show up down the lane, but I was able to get the jump on them."
Veteran trainer Tom Bush conditions Unbridled Command for owner Lewis G. Lakin. The winner was bred by Sequel Thoroughbreds and A. Lakin and Sons, and is out of the unraced Unbridled's Song mare Unbridled Betty.
Unbridled Command was timed in 2:01.07 over firm turf.
"He likes to track on the turns," Bush said of Unbridled Command's smart bid on the outside. "He just matures from race to race to race. I couldn't dream of a horse developing any nicer than this horse. He's really gotten special. He's going to fly to Palm Meadows (in Florida) tonight and we'll figure out his next race.''
My Best Brother, off a step slowly, hustled up to get the lead from Golden Ticket and Handsome Mike after the opening quarter mile and was striding nicely on the front end while unfolding fractions of :24.32, :47.91, and 1:12.44 for the opening six furlongs. Castellano took Unbridled Command back early and raced in 11th position while the Irish-bred Grandeur, winner of the Twilight Derby (gr. IIT, formerly the Oak Tree Derby) tailed off at the back under Garrett Gomez.
Unbridled Command took the overland route to reach contention on the outside rounding the final turn and by the time they reached the quarter pole in 1:36.86, he was poised to overtake My Best Brother. Unbridled Command opened up a three-length lead in the homestretch and finished up under urging from Castellano as Lucky Chappy and a six-wide Grandeur gave game chase late.
It was too little too late for the challengers, however.
"I had a good trip until turning for home," said Gomez, who attempted to bring Grandeur home from last at the quarter pole. "When I turned for home, (Speaking of Which) clipped heels and a couple of them swung out in front of me, so it wasn't the smoothest of trips and I actually had to alter my course. The winner saved all the ground and snuck away from us."
"He ran well and finished big," said Julien Leparoux, riding Lucky Chappy. "Big field, so we had to come around wide, but he ran his race."
Unbridled Command made his graded stakes debut a successful effort in the Saranac Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga Race Course Sept. 2. In his most recent start, he romped by nearly seven lengths over New York-bred rivals in the Mohawk Stakes on a yielding turf course at Belmont Park Oct. 20. His other victories during the current win streak came in allowance or optional claiming company.
His overall mark stands at 6-1-2 in 10 races with earnings of $469,040 thanks to the winner's share of $150,000 from the Hollywood Derby. The colt was a $28,000 buy as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. April sale in 2011.
Carrying 122 pounds, Unbridled Command paid $16, $7.20, and $6, and keyed a $70.20 exacta with the favorite. Grandeur, whose win in the nine-furlong Twilight Derby was accomplished in closing style by a half-length, returned $4.80 and $3.60 in his return for trainer Jeremy Noseda. Lucky Chappy, another Irish-bred trained by Graham Motion, paid $7.60 to show as he lost for the ninth straight time in the U.S.
Noseda said Grandeur may stick around Southern California to run in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IIT) Dec. 15 at Hollywood.
"We were just a little bit unlucky, I thought," he said.
The filly Rjwa, an Irish-bred invading from France for her first U.S. start for trainer Francois Rohaut, finished fourth. She was followed by Power Foot, second choice Summer Front, My Best Brother, All Squared Away, Big Bane Theory, Handsome MIke, Golden Ticket, Smart Ellis, General Logan, and Speaking of Which.
Speaking of Which, runner-up in the Twilight Derby, was in contention in fifth at the quarter pole but had to take up sharply while in very tight and dropped back quickly.