Victor's Cry, with a perfectly timed ride from Corey Nakatani, nipped favorite Karelian by a short head to post a 21-1 stunner in the $249,500 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park May 31.
The final time was an impressive 1:32.88 for Victor's Cry, who registered his first stakes win. The course mark is 1:32.59, established by Monterey Jazz May 24, 2009.
Chasing a sizzling pace, Victor's Cry had just a couple of of horses beaten at the head of the stretch. But Nakatani angled the Virginia-bred 5-year-old son of Street Cry out for the drive and they swept past the rest of the tiring field, overcoming pacesetter Mr Gruff and Karelian just in time.
Eoin Harty trains the winner for Equilete Stable.
The 8-year-old Karelian, coming off a win in Keeneland's Maker's Mark Stakes (gr. IT), took second by 1 1/4 lengths over Mr Gruff, who had opened up a clear lead in the stretch but faltered in the final furlong.
"He had the look of eagles today," the affable Irishman Harty said of the winner. "He was really focused in the paddock. He was training super for this. At the top of the stretch, I thought that if he ran third, I'd be happy. But they were stopping up front. I can't believe he won!"
Victor's Cry ran second behind Mr Gruff by 2 1/4 lengths in his last start, the San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the 6 1/2-furlong hillside turf course at Santa Anita April 17.
And it looked like everyone was running for second behind Mr Gruff this time as well. The brilliant son of Mr. Greeley, ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo, led from the start, spurted away from the field at the head of the stretch, and looked like a winner through the drive. But Mr Gruff, who had never been beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, wore down in the final eighth and could not hold off the challengers.
Karelian, after tracking in second throughout for Rafael Bejarano, was also tiring while getting to the leader when Victor's Cry, flying down the center of the track under left-handed urging from Nakatani, seemed to get the veteran gelding going again. They fought to the wire in the last strides, but Victor's Cry had the momentum, and ultimately, the prize.
“Turning for home I felt all I needed was a spot to run," said Nakatani, who is based in Kentucky at the present after a long career in Southern California. "Right on that turn they kind of squirted away and I cut the corner and was able to swing out. I waited a little bit to make sure that when I did call on him he was there. He made a strong move from the three-eighths pole to get position and to be able to win the race I had to try to time it as best I could. "
Nakatani won the Shoemaker Mile (known as the Premiere Handicap until 1989) for the fifth time.
Bejarano said he had a good trip aboard Karelian.
"When I saw (Mr. Gruff) starting to stop in the stretch my horse really started running," Bejarano said. "He was running strong to the end but that other horse just caught us.”
Mr Gruff, who broke smartly from the rail and carved solid fractions of :23.08, :46.05, and 1:09.20 while pulling a bit early, settled for third. He snapped a four-race winning streak.
"The fractions kind of hurt him," Talamo noted. "I was surprised they pressed him that much early. For his first time going a mile, I thought he ran tremendous. He’ll win a graded stakes around two turns eventually.”
It was three-quarters of a length to Gallant Son, who stalked from the rail but could not match strides with the winner late. Golden Balls, Global Hunter, Compari, Tangled Tango, and Blue Chagall completed the order.
Speedster Compari, the second choice, saw his six-race winning tear ended in a nightmare trip. Four wide on the first turn after breaking from the far outside for Joel Rosario, the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) winner chased the leaders on the outside and was steadied in tight on the far turn when trying to advance between rivals. He had nothing left for the drive.
Victor's Cry won an allowance on the Santa Anita hillside in February and owned a prior victory at the one-mile distance, that coming at Del Mar over an optional claiming field last July. He followed that effort with a fourth in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT), his best stakes showing prior to his effort in the San Simeon. He won for the fifth time in 17 lifetime starts and the winner's share of $150,000 boosted his career earnings to $350,633.
Bred by Legacy Farm, Victor's Cry is out of the Clever Trick mare Short Time.
Under equal weights of 124 pounds, Victor's Cry paid $44.40, $12.60, and $7.20, topping a $138.80 exacta with the favorite. Green Lantern Stables' Karelian, who shipped west for trainer George Arnold off his 1 1/4-win in the Maker's Mark April 9, returned $3.60 and $2.80. The Ron Ellis-conditioned Mr Gruff was $4 to show.