Jerry Hollendorfer trained the top three finishers in the $150,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) Dec. 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park, including winner Blueskiesnrainbows , who blasted out of the starting gate in a front-running tour de force (VIDEO).
Making his first start since finishing second behind London Bridge in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park, Blueskiesnrainbows made all the pace before holding off stretch challenges from runner-up and 5-2 favorite Hear the Ghost and third-place finisher Rousing Sermon, both also conditioned by the Hall of Fame trainer.
The second choice at 3-1 odds, Blueskiesnrainbows, a 4-year-old son of English Channel , won by half a length and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.07 on the Cushion Track. The race was run for the final time at the soon-to-be demolished Inglewood, Calif., track.
With Martin Pedroza aboard, Blueskiesnrainbows rocketed from the gate and outdueled his stablemates and Soi Phet to take charge on the rail. Blueskiesnrainbows clocked swift early fractions :23.51, :47.89, and 1:12.34 through six furlongs as Soi Phet pressed about a half-length back in second and Rousing Sermon and Hear the Ghost tracked in third and fourth, respectively.
Angled a bit off the rail for the stretch run, Blueskiesandrainbows opened a 1 1/2-length advantage with Soi Phet starting to weaken. Corey Nakatani guided Hear the Ghost between horses to challenge late but the 3-year-old Ghostzapper gelding could not overtake the winner.
"For him to win like he did going a mile and an eighth on the lead was really good," Pedroza said of Blueskiesnrainbows, the 119-pound highweight. "I had no choice but to go from the rail today. I figured I'd put him on the lead and they'd get tired chasing me. That's exactly what happened."
Four wide on the home turn, Rousing Sermon had a willing response when Rafael Bejarano asked for his run and finished third, another half a length back in the seven-horse field. Soi Phet faded to fifth.
Blueskiesnrainbows, owned by Bad Boy Racing and Whizway Farm, scored his second stakes victory of the year, following a four-length romp in the Ralph M. Hinds Handicap Sept. 22 at the Los Angeles County Fair. The Native Diver marked his second graded stakes win. He captured the 2012 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park for former trainer Bob Baffert and also posted third-place finishes in the 2012 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and the 2013 Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) at Del Mar.
Overall, Blueskiesnrainbows has a 6-3-3 record from 22 career starts. He returned mutuels of $8.40, $3.80, and $3 while Hear the Ghost paid $4.20 and $3 Rousing Sermon returned $3.20. The 1-9-8 trifecta paid $59.30.
Bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans out of the Deputy Minister mare Cho Cho San, the colt was a $33,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase by Cecil Seaman on behalf of Whizway Farm. Lane's End consigned for Evans.