Zayat Stables' Kentucky shipper Thorn Song nipped Hyperbaric by a head in an exhilarating stretch battle to win the $314,500 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park by a head.
Fans were deprived of seeing the outstanding mare Ventura taking on the boys after she was scratched by trainer Bobby Frankel on the morning of the race, but they were treated to a tremendous spectacle anyway. Thorn Song, Hyperbaric, and third-place finisher Storm Military were separated by little more than a neck at the wire. The winning time for Thorn Song, sent off at odds of 9-1, was a sharp 1:33.33.
Dale Romans trains the 6-year-old winning son of Unbridled's Song, who was ridden for the first time by Mike Smith. The good-looking gray went over the $1 million mark in career earnings with his first win since taking Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) in front-running fashion last October. The winner’s check of $192,300 boosted his bankroll to $1,124,483 with eight wins in 27 starts.
Thorn Song set a decent pace along the inside in the Shoemaker while allowed to lope on the lead by 1 1/2 lengths for the first six furlongs. Fractions were :23.48, :46.06 and 1:09.25. The winner, under left-handed urging from Smith, came under heavy pressure in the stretch from Hyperbaric, who drew to within a head at the eighth pole and was in front for a couple of head bobs as the two approached the wire. But Thorn Song prevailed in ultra-game fashion.
Hyperbaric, ridden by Victor Espinoza, hit the wire a neck in front of Storm Military, who finished willingly for Brice Blanc but could not quite get on even terms with the first two in deep stretch. Whatsthescript, the 6-5 favorite making his first start in six months, finished up well in fourth after angling out for the stretch drive under Joel Rosario. Then came Dixie Chatter , Tiz Westand U S Ranger .
Owner Ahmed Zayat paid a $5,000 supplemental fee to get Thorn Song into the race. The winner paid $21.20, $9.20 and $6.20.
"He had a tough campaign last year and I think he just ran lights out today," said Tom Morgan, who is Roman's assistant. "You couldn’t ask for a better trip and it was a great ride by Mike. When he’s on his game he’s tough to beat. This race just popped up, he was a late supplement for it. Last year he ran in the Firecracker and that was the only race really in the book for him. Hopefully if everything goes well we will be back.”
Grade I winner Hyperbaric, third in last year's Shoemaker, returned $5.40 and $3.60, while the Frankel-trained Storm Military was $6.60 to show.
Thorn Song was winless in four starts since capturing the Shadwell Turf Mile, including 4 1/2-length defeat to Einstein in the Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 2.
Romans and Zayat missed the race at Hollywood Park, but they each called Smith with instructions.
"He just ran dynamite. I'm so proud of him. There were some really good horses in there," Smith said. "Dale (Romans) called me and said, 'Mike, I really want him on the lead. Even if you have to go a little faster than you like, that's where I'd like him.’
"He broke sharp and I was able to get the easy lead and he never stopped trying. I'll tell you, he's a fighting little dude. At one point they may have got a jump or two in front, but he came back."
Pinnacle Racing and Taylor Made Farm bred Thorn Song in Kentucky. He is out of Festal, by Storm Bird.
Espinoza said Hyperbaric "ran an unbelievable race. Turning for home I started riding but he was lugging in a little and it got pretty tight between horses. I couldn't ride him really the way I wanted, but he ran great."
Rosario, aboard Whatsthescript, said the Hollywood turf is playing for speed. "He ran a really good race, but the horses in front just kept going. He might have needed the race."
Trainer Richard Mandella finished fifth and sixth with his two entries, Dixie Chatter and Tiz West.