A pocket trip worked to perfection for Tale of a Champion and jockey Joe Talamo when they outfought favored All Squared Away in deep stretch to post a 10-1 upset in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) June 8 at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Trained by Kristin Mulhall for Kretz Racing, Tale of a Champion snapped a seven-race losing streak in his most recent effort, a starter stakes at Santa Anita Park March 30. The 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat posted his first graded-stakes victory.
With Talamo again at the controls, Tale of a Champion used a ground-saving trip for a one-length victory in 2:01.27 for 1 1/4 miles on a firm turf course. All Squared Away, the 13-10 pick who challenged the winner in the final furlong, settled for second under Corey Nakatani, with pacesetter Lucky Primo and Tyler Baze third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Tale of a Champion.
Bred in Kentucky by Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel, Tale of a Champion is out of the winning Seattle Slew mare If Angels Sang.
"I think we've misplaced this horse in the past and he hasn't had the best trips," Mulhall said. "He feels like he wants to run two miles when he's galloping. I told the owner about five races ago I'd like to see him go a mile and a half."
"We were trying to build his confidence up at Santa Anita (in his last start)," said Mulhall, who noted the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 12 furlongs July 14 could be next for Tale of a Champion.
Tale of a Champion raced a close-up third at the rail behind Lucky Primo, who held a one-length advantage over Slim Shadey on the outside through soft quarter-mile fractions of :25.13, :48.75, 1:13.66, and 1:37.79. Slim Shadey fell back leaving the turn, opening room for Tale of Champion to angle out between horses.
With All Squared Away also charging from the outside, it was down to two leaving the furlong pole, with Tale of a Champion inching clear under left-handed urging from Talamo.
"We really had a great trip," Talamo said. "He's really coming into himself. He really impressed me when he won last time. The race set up perfectly for him today. There wasn't much pace and he just sat right behind and at the quarter pole was able to come off the rail.
"He fought off (All Squared Away). My horse felt his presence at the eighth pole and kept digging in."
Tale of a Champion won for the sixth time in 14 trips and added $120,000 to his purse total, which now stands at $269,708.
Carrying 115 pounds, Tale of a Champion paid $22.40, $7.20, and $5 as the second-longest shot in the field of six. All Squared Away, posting his third consecutive runner-up finish in a grade II event, returned $3 and $2.80. Lucky Primo paid $4.60. The $1 exacta was worth $23.90.