After knocking on the door of a couple stakes races, Donald Dizney's homebred Surfcup finally broke into the black-type winner ranks April 27 with a victory in the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes (VIDEO) at Betfair Hollywood Park on California Gold Rush day.
"I guess that made up for all the bad ones today," said Mike Marlow, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert. "He broke well and he was sharp early. He was on it right out of the gate and (jockey) Rafael (Bejarano) just let him run. It was kind of a surprising race, really. We always thought he likes the turf, but this gives us options. His only bad race was his second start, which was sprinting. He's definitely a two-turn horse."
Surfcup, a 3-year-old son of Unusual Heat—Omi Princess, by Runaway Groom, was making his fourth start of the year and his initial try at over a mile. He went off at 5-1 odds in the the Snow Chief, which was run at 1 1/8 miles.
In his first race of the year Jan. 26 at Santa Anita Park, Surfcup finished third in the California Breeders Champion Stakes at a mile. He followed that race with a win in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita March 1, and then threw in a fourth-place clunker in the 6 1/2-furlong Echo Eddie Stakes March 30.
In the Snow Chief, Bejarano gave Surfcup the perfect stalking trip, sitting just behind the early pacesetter Bobo, who took the eight-horse field through modest fractions of :24.24, :48.14, and 1:13.24.
Surfcup didn't take the lead until an eighth of a mile from the wire and easily held off a brief challenge from second-place finisher Fighting Hussar, who advanced along the fence and finished willingly. Even-money favorite Tiz a Minister, who tracked at the back of the pack through most of the race, rallied in the stretch to finish third. The final time was 1:50.80.
Surfcup is the second foal out of Omi Princess, also a homebred for Dizney, but is her first runner, first winner, and now her first stakes winner. Dizney also bred the winner's granddam, Osceola Princess, who is out of the Tartan Farms-bred mare Wolf Trail.
Victor Espinoza, who was riding Fighting Hussar, said his mount lost his balance soon after the break and nearly clipped heels with Surfcup on the first turn. After those problems, he said the son of Rockport Harbor was not as close to the pace as he wanted him to be.
"I had a good trip the rest of the way, but I think that early incident cost him a little," Espinoza said. "He's a nice horse. He always tries."
Tiz a Minister simply lacked any kind of pace to run against, according to rider Corey Nakatani.
"We thought there was going to be more pace and we were trying to make one run," Nakatani said. "It was my fault because I was too far back. I had to make up so much ground, and they were just galloping up front. He would have had to come home in 22 (seconds) flat to get there."
The Snow Chief gave Bejarano his third win on the Hollywood Park card, which featured eight stakes for California-bred or California-sired horses. He also won the Melair Stakes on Doinghardtimeagain, and the Tiznow Stakes with Kate's Event. Both of his other winners were trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.
Surfcup paid $12, $6.60, and $3.20. Fighting Hussar paid $7.20 and $3.20, while Tiz a Minister paid $2.20. The $2 exacta was worth $67.60, and the $2 trifecta paid $222.20.