Favored Bench Points, charging from last in upper stretch, nosed Runflatout in a terrific finish to the $100,000 Lazaro Berrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park May 15. The California-bred son of Benchmark won for the fifth time in as many tries around one turn.
Bench Points, seventh in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last month, surely appreciated the cutback in distance. With Rafael Bejarano aboard, the chestnut gelding passed all four of his rivals while completing the seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds in 1:22.50 over the Cushion Track.
Tim Yakteen trains the winner for the partnership of Donnie Crevier, Linda Mariani, Charles Martin, and Mary Jo Zuraitis. Gary Rocks bred Bench Points, who is out of the Free House mare Mo Chuisle.
The favorite appeared to be heading to an easy victory in the final furlong but Runflatout, to the inside, reengaged for Garrett Gomez as he was being passed near the sixteenth pole and those two battled fiercely to the wire with Bench Points barely prevailing. Ain't No Other, who had taken the lead from pacesetting Flightofalifetime near the quarter pole, settled for third with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, 2 1/4 lengths back.
"I knew Runflatout was going to be tough at the end, so that's why, when I saw him move a little bit from the three-eighths (pole), I tried to get close to him," Bejarano said. "When we came to the stretch, (Ain't No Other) was lugging out and (Runflatout) reacted right away. My horse kept running and showed me a big kick.’’
Ain't No Other, pursuing his fifth consecutive win for Northern California trainer Steve Miyadi, sprinted to the early lead before settling into second as Flightofalifetime set a solid pace. Fractions were :22.33 and :45.46.
Bench Points broke his maiden at Hollywood in his debut last June, then won a pair of stakes over state-bred rivals at Del Mar last summer. He returned to action in February, defeating an open optional claiming allowance field over six furlongs at Santa Anita.
Four-for-four at that point, Yakteen opted for the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 12. Bench Points wasn't embarrassed, finishing third by nine lengths to the victorious Premier Pegasus. The Santa Anita Derby, however, proved too far as Bench Points gave way after chasing the pace.
Yakteen said he had no second thoughts about taking a shot in the Santa Anita Derby.
"It's a lot of fun and everybody enjoyed the roll," Yakteen said. "You regret getting the horse beat, but he never disgraced himself. Now we're back where he's best. We'll keep him sprinting."
Yakteen said he'd like to see Bench Points emulate Smiling Tiger, who won last year's Barrera en route to a pair of grade I victories and a third-place finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
"That was a pretty nice campaign (trainer) Jeff (Bonde) put together for him," he said. "But obviously you have to have the horse. Right now, I'm pretty excited about his prospects."
Bench Points has now won five of seven while banking $278,280. He carried 121 pounds and paid $4.40, $2.40 and $2.10.
Runflatout, who set a sizzling pace in the San Felipe last time and stopped, improved considerably while cutting back for his third lifetime start. He paid $3.20 and $2.40 while completing an $11 exacta.
Ain't No Other, the 123-pound high weight, won the Harry Henson Stakes on Holywood's turf course April 21 and returned $2.60 to show in his graded stakes debut.
Sinai and Flightofalifetime, a pair of Bob Baffert trainees, trailed.