A game winner of the six-furlong Golden Nugget Stakes Nov. 9, Exit Stage Left defeated Argyle Cut by one length in the one-mile Gold Rush. Exit Stage Left was timed in 1:38.53 on the Tapeta track and paid $3.20 as the heavy favorite in a field of five.
Jockey Russell Baze said Exit Stage Left was a bit aggressive in his first race around two turns but was pleased with the colt's performance.
"This was only his second start and he's still putting it all together," said the Hall of Fame rider. "He's a very talented colt and he's got tons of potential. Mentally, he's not real mature. He kind of wants to fight me a little bit. But he's very responsive when I ask him. He's got a real good move."
Exit Stage Left raced in third down the backstretch and around the far turn, stalking leaders Pete's Slew and Rockford through fractions of :24.08, :49.10, and 1:13.87. Baze turned Exit Stage Left loose at the top of the stretch and the New Jersey-bred son of Noonmark responded to Baze's urging to gain the lead inside the eighth pole.
"I was surprised he had that good of a move today because he was pulling on me pretty hard the first half-mile," said Baze.
Exit Stage Left is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who said the key to future success with Exit Stage Left will be getting the horse to relax early and focus more down the stretch.
"He's a very talented horse but we have a lot of work to do with him to get him to relax the first part of it," said the Hall of Fame conditioner. "He also was looking around down the lane. But we've asked him to do a lot. Most young horses couldn't do that so I'm very pleased with him. I'm glad he showed his talent."
Hollendorfer purchased Exit Stage Left for $100,000 at the Barretts March 2-year-olds in training sale and races him in partnership with longtime client Mark Dedomenico. Exit Stage Left has earned $75,350 in his two races.
The trainer said Exit Stage Left will likely make his 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 California Derby Jan. 18 at Golden Gate Fields. The California Derby is a 1 1/16-mile race.
Hollendorfer had a big day at Betfair Hollywood Park, where he won the $150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (gr. II) with Broken Sword ($17.80) and took second in the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) with Taste Like Candy.