Favored Marlang galloped to victory on the front end for meet-leading rider Joel Rosario as Hollywood Park dropped the stakes curtain on the 2010 spring/summer season in the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) July 18.
Gustav Schickedanz' 5-year-old Ontario, Canada, homebred, whose career has been punctuated by a pair of lengthy layoffs, earned his first victory since taking the Saranac Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga as a 3-year-old in August 2008. Now in the stable of Neil Drysdale, the son of Langfuhr --Marienburg, by Conquistador Cielo, was making just his second start since last September.
Marlang also won the final leg of the 2008 Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders Stakes on the turf at the Sunset distance of 1 1/2 miles, prior to the Saranac. The bay horse was previously trained by Deborah England.
Breaking from the far outside against five rivals in the Sunset, Rosario sent Marlang to the front soon after the start. Marlang, bounding along with his head low on a long lead, opened an aggressive 3 1/2-length advantage over Great Siege while clicking off an opening half mile in a reasonable :48.12, six furlongs in 1:12.80, and a mile in 1:37.43 over firm going. Rosario slowed things to a crawl as Marlang made his way into the final turn. Great Siege was the first to threaten.
Just when it looked like Great Siege might go by, Marlang suddenly perked up and re-established command on the turn to take a clear lead into the homestretch. Marlang produced a further response when challenged by Champ Pegasus and Dynamic Range, who took up the fight as Great Siege fell back.
Marlang, under some urging from Rosario, held on gamely by one length over Champ Pegasus, who could not make any impact in the final furlong on the winner for jockey Joe Talamo. Unusual Suspect, with Corey Nakatani aboard, closed ground in the lane from last to take third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Dynamic Range, Buenos Dias, and Great Siege followed.
The final time was a solid 2:25.45, the fastest clocking of the Sunset since Bienamado won in 2:25 flat in 2000.
"I sent him to the lead and he got a little tough after that," Rosario said. "He’s a long-striding horse and about halfway through the race he came back to me real nice. That’s why he finished better today."
Speaking of his latest riding title, Rosario added, "I want to thank all the people here for all the kindness and all the owners here at Hollywood Park for supporting me. Everything worked out real nice.”
Drysdale earned his second Sunset victory, the first coming with Always First for Sheikh Maktoum in 2005.
Marlang had one prior start for the Hall of Fame trainer, fading to finish last of five after pressing the pace in a one-mile turf allowance June 27. He had worked twice since that effort, including a bullet six-furlong move on the Hollywood lawn July 11.
“He had a nice prep the other day, a very nice prep," Drysdale said. "He washed out again today…he always sweats up a bit. (Rosario) had to ask him a little bit from the gate and probably went a little quicker than he wanted. Then he came back and relaxed.
"I’m going to talk to the owner to figure out what to do with him next. He’s either going to travel or the next race will be the ($200,000) Del Mar Handicap (on Aug. 29).”
Winning for the fifth time in 15 lifetime starts, Marlang boosted his career earnings to $558,212 with the winner's share of $60,000.
Carrying 116 pounds, the winner paid $6.80, $3.60, and $3.20. Champ Pegasus, making his stakes debut for trainer Richard Mandella, had a two-race win streak ended as he returned $3.60 and $3.20 for second. Unusual Suspect, the 119-pound highweight with Nakatani riding five pounds over the assigned 114, was $3.20 to show.
Oil Man scratched.
The Sunset, the traditional closing stakes at Hollywood with a long history of notable runners, was reduced to a grade III for the first time in 2010 by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Southern California racing action resumes July 21 at Del Mar.