Trainer Mike Mitchell, who had brain surgery a day earlier, surely got some much-needed tonic when his Camp Victory swept past odds-on favorite The Factor to post a convincing victory in the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Betfair Hollywood Park June 30 (VIDEO) .
Camp Victory, sent off at odds of 10-1, was claimed by Mitchell in February 2011 for $40,000. The 5-year-old son of Forest Camp earned his first grade I victory for owners Gordon Jacobsen, Roger Featherston, and Tom and Lynne Miller.
A Mitchell family member said before the race that the 64-year-old trainer, a mainstay for many years in Southern California, had come through the surgery--in which a tumor was removed--in good shape. He was watching the race from the hospital with his wife Denise and their two daughters.
"We felt we won today when Mike called," co-owner Lynne Miller, in tears after the emotional victory, told TVG. "We thought we won just hearing his voice. I didn't care how we ran today. This is just so much."
Camp Victory, ridden by Joe Talamo, ran seven furlongs over the Cushion Track in 1:22.75. They handed The Factor, a multiple grade I winner, his first defeat in five tries at the distance. Mobilized rallied for third.
"There was definitely a little extra emotion there at the wire.," Talamo said. "Winning for Mike like that is unbelievable. I talked to him just before he went to the hospital. I'm glad he came out of it OK."
Coming off a third-place finish in the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood May 28, Camp Victory had lost six in a row since winning the 2011 Los Angeles via disqualification.
"Mike's always loved this horse and picked him out to claim," noted assistant trainer Phil A'Amato. "It was like a six-way shake the day we got him. The rest is history.
"I've been with Mike seven years now," D'Amato added. "He's like my father. He took me under his wing and taught me everything."
The dark bay or brown gelding, out of the Clever Trick mare Victory Trick, was bred in Virginia by Atkins Homes Inc.
Seven contested the Triple Bend with defending champion Smiling Tiger sent off as the 3-1 second choice behind the Factor at 9-10. Camp Victory ran second in last year's Triple Bend, 3 1/4 lengths behind Smiling Tiger.
The Factor, making his first start since finishing sixth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse on World Cup night three months ago, took the early lead for Rafael Bejarano. But the Bob Baffert trainee was unable to clear off from outsider Italian Rules, who raced just a head behind on The Factor's outside through an opening quarter mile in :22.49 with Smiling Tiger a close stalking third. Italian Rules weakened as they reached the three-eighths pole in a swift :44.82 and Smiling Tiger tackled The Factor.
Those two battled into the stretch as Camp Victory ranged into contention off the turn on the far outside. Smiling Tiger threw in the towel nearing mid-stretch. But the fight also took its toll on The Factor, who provided little resistance as Talamo roused Camp Victory for the challenge. Camp Victory engaged The Factor briefly at the furlong pole on the outside and scooted away under urging to win comfortably.
"This horse runs his race every time but he doesn't get there quite enough because he's always running against a bias," Talamo said of Camp Victory. "It seems like every time there was a speed horse, they would just keep going. It happened last year in the Triple Bend when Smiling Tiger won. For once everything worked out on paper like we thought it would.
"Two or three would go out there, and they did. I kind of thought The Factor was going to get out, which he did, but I didn't want to leave it to chance so I just kept him outside."
The Factor was 5 1/4 lengths in front of Mobilized, who rallied from last under Garrett Gomez to edge Tres Borrachos for the show spot. Smiling Tiger, Centralinteligence, and Italian Rules followed.
Camp Victory won for the eighth time in 23 starts and boosted his earnings to $517,986. He has two wins and two placings from five starts over Hollywood's Cushion Track.
The winner carried 116 pounds and paid $22.60, $7, and $3.60 as the fifth choice. The Factor, toting 123 in his return for owners Fog City Stable and George Bolton, returned $3.20 and $2.40 while completing a $61.20 exacta. Mobilized paid $4.60.
Comma to the Top and Don Tito scratched.