E Z's Gentleman, scraping paint for jockey Martin Pedroza, shook free in the homestretch to defeat his stablemate Sangaree and give trainer Bob Baffert the top two spots in the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park July 10.
Godolphin Racing's Gayego, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven older sprinters, was an indifferent third in his first North American start of the 2010 campaign.
Owned by Arnold Zetcher, the 5-year-old E Z's Gentleman registered his first stakes win in the Triple Bend by 3 1/4 lengths.
Longtime Southern California rider Pedroza earned his 1,000th lifetime win at Holly wood Park, becoming the 10th rider to reach that milestone.
"When I used to be in the jock's room with Shoemaker and McCarron, I was the bambino," said Pedroza, savoring his first grade I victory at Hollywood Park. "That's what Shoemaker used to call me, The Bambino. Now they call me the veteran here. I'm sweating so much because this is like winning the Santa Anita Handicap or six races in a day. To get my 1,000th win here in a grade I, it means a lot to me."
Coming off a close second-place effort behind Cost of Freedom in the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III) June 5, E Z's Gentleman won the seven-furlong Triple Bend in a strong Cushion Track time of 1:21.11.
Second-choice M One Rifle went to the early lead in the Triple Bend with E Z's Gentleman, who broke from the rail, refusing to give up the inside position and saving ground while stalking splits of :22.82 and :45.03. E Z's Gentleman bid for the lead rounding the turn and took a narrow advantage over M One Rifle in upper stretch. He edged away from there and drew off under urging in the final furlong to win commandingly.
Pedroza said, "Baffert told me, 'If you would have gotten him beat, I would have beat you up.' Mike Smith (M One Rifle) rode a great race ... he figured there was only two speeds, him and me. He kept me inside just enough so I could stay there. He was hoping I'd come around him and maybe he could steal the race. And who knows, if he got away he might have been tough. I said to myself, 'I'm here and and I'm not going to give up my position.'"
Sangaree, racing near the back of the seven-horse field to the quarter pole, rallied four wide in the stretch for Martin Garcia. Sangaree, runner-up to Rail Trip in both the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) and the Californian (gr. II) during the Hollywood meet, finished one length clear of Gayego to be second once more.
"He ran really well," Garcia said. " He keeps running good races. I thought I had a chance to catch him (E Z's Gentleman) but that other horse just kept going."
Baffert won last year's Triple Bend with Zensational and in 1996 with Letthebighossroll.
"When (E Z’s Gentleman) was dueling, I thought, `Oh, no he doesn’t run like that,' but (Pedroza) just put it to him (pacesetter M One Rifle)," he said. "He got aggressive with him from the inside. He got up in there and he got aggressive with him because he didn’t want M One Rifle to sneak away because he can do that to you. Martin knew what he was doing and the other horse (Sangaree) came on and ran well. Recently, E Z’s Gentleman has just gotten better and better with age. This horse just kept on running. The timing was great for today.’’
Grade I winner Gayego, stalking between foes under high weight of 122 pounds, was in good position on the turn but ran one-paced through the lane and settled for third under Rafael Bejarano. Gayego, based in New York recently for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, was making his first start since running eighth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) at Meydan Racecourse on World Cup night March 27.
E Z's Gentleman won for the third time in his past five starts. A ridgling by Yankee Gentleman —Tensie's Pro, by Distinctive Pro, he improved to 4-1-2 in 15 races while doubling his earnings to $299,711 with the winner's share of $150,000.
Dixiana Stables bred the winner in Kentucky.
Sent off as the third choice, E Z's Gentleman carried 116 pounds and paid $9.80, $4.80 and $3.20. Sangaree, also packing 116, returned $4.80 and $2.60. Gayego was $2.40 to show.
M One Rifle weakened to fourth, followed by New Bay, Fantasy Free and Bestdressed. My Summer Slew scratched.