The shoe finally fit and favored Comma to the Top, after nearly a half-hour delay, used it for a dominating victory in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO) Dec. 18 at rainy and windy Hollywood Park.
Comma to the Top lost a rear shoe in the paddock and the first blacksmith on the scene was injured in the process of replacing it, contributing to the long delay. After finally getting the 10 horses on the track, the race was run under the lights.
"It was unbelievable," winning trainer Peter Miller told TVG. "I was ready to shoe him myself and I've never shod a horse in my life. I apologize to everyone for the delay, but thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Miller earned his first grade I win since Set Play in the 2007 Del Mar Debutante in a race won last year by 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky.
Comma to the Top took the lead on the far turn and completed the 1 1/16-mile test for 2-year-olds in 1:44.72 with Corey Nakatani aboard. The official margin was 1 3/4 lengths.
Front-running winner of the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) on turf and the Real Quiet Stakes on the Cushion Track earlier in the meet, the son of Bwana Charlie--Maggies Storm, by Stormy Atlantic , captured his fifth consecutive race for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara.
J P's Gusto, forced to drop back when lacking room along the inside on the far turn, came on again strongly to get second with Joe Talamo aboard. Clubhouse Ride , ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, edged Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) winner Gourmet Dinner for third.
All of the pre-race confusion finally aside, Comma to the Top -- expected to go to the front from his outside post -- instead settled comfortably into second as High Level Jeff showed the way while setting solid fractions of :23.93 and :47.57. Comma to the Top, with J P's Gusto tracking at the rail and Rustler Hustler between horses, were never far behind the early leader. As the field made its way into the final turn, Comma to the Top glided up on the outside of High Level Jeff and took the lead without much resistance after completing six furlongs in 1:11.81.
Comma to the Top was in command at the quarter pole, expanding his margin when urged to about four lengths approaching mid-stretch. J P's Gusto, after dropping back for Talamo, wound up his charge from the center of the track and made up quite a bit of ground in the final furlong. He never threatened the winner, who held on under steady handling from Nakatani.
"To run like that on top of everything that happened … he’s just an amazing little horse," said Nakatani after his first win in the Hollywood or CashCall Futurity. "We’ve been real patient with him because at Del Mar we knew he could go long. He started moving in the right direction and as soon as he got to two turns, it seems like he’s a young Lava Man. To me, he acts like it. He kicks away when you need him to and he’s a typical high-cruising speed horse.
"That move on the turn felt great. It feels like you’re on a Ferrari. All this adversity is a plus, because he handled it like it was just another day. Right now, I’d say he’s one of the best 2-year-olds I’ve ridden.”
J P's Gusto, winner of the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) this summer prior to a sixth in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), was the clear runner-up by 3 1/4 lengths over Clubhouse Ride, who finished a head in front of the Florida invader Gourmet Dinner. Clubhouse Ride was six lengths behind Gourmet Dinner when third in the Delta Jackpot Nov. 20.
Comma to the Top, a $22,0000 2-year-old-in-training purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Company in April, won for the sixth time in 10 starts this year. Richard and Linda Thompson bred the bay gelding in Florida.
He earned $375,000 for the victory, pushing his seasonal total to $551,600.
Comma to the Top finished fourth behind J P's Gusto in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) and sixth in the Del Mar Futurity. He then shipped to Golden Gate Fields, where he captured a pair of allowance races on Tapeta in the fall and hasn't lost since. He dominated in the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet, winning by 6 1/4 lengths, and was never seriously challenged in the Generous as the even-money choice in his most recent start Nov. 27.
Miller said that he was concerned about how Comma to the Top would react during the long wait.
“He was so frustrated and mad that I didn’t think he’d run," the trainer said. "He didn’t want to be shod at that point and normally he’s the most docile, calm horse in the world. I would have shod him if I had to. Seriously, when I thought they were going to scratch him, I grabbed a shoe and started to shoe him. And then I realized, I’m not a shoer.
"This horse is really good," Miller continued. "I told Corey that if someone sends, he can sit. I worked him off horses the other day and he did great. And Nak just rode him perfect. When he made that move at the three-eighths pole, I’ve never had a feeling like that. After all the drama, it’s just unbelievable. I do want to apologize to all the other owners and trainers. It was out of our control.”
Bet down to 8-5 before the shoe problem arose, Comma to the Top floated slightly to 5-2 odds and paid $7, $4.60 and $3.40. He topped a $42.40 exacta. J P's Gusto, who has now lost three route races in a row since his Del Mar Futurity victory, returned $4.80 and $3.80 in a gutsy effort. Clubhouse Ride, winner of the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park in September, paid $6.40 to show.
Gourmet Dinner was followed by Riveting Reason, Rustler Hustler, Slammer Time, Ronin Dax, Industry Leader and High Level Jeff.