Jack o' Lantern, the longest shot in the field at 19-1, enjoyed a dream run along the inside for jockey Isaias Enriquez to post a half-length upset over favored Azul Leon in the $103,700 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park Nov. 23.
The Kentucky-bred son of Flatter took the lead mid-stretch and held on gamely, completing the seven-furlong Cushion Track test for 2-year-olds in a sharp 1:21.89. The dark bay colt paid $41.80, $12, and $5.80 and keyed a $2 exacta worth $103.40 with Azul Leon ($3.20, $2.60), a two-time graded stakes winner. Ventana ($2.40) and Arashi Cat ($3) finished in a dead-heat for third, 1 1/2 lengths further back.
Jack o' Lantern, owned by Bruce Chandler and Purple Shamrock Racing, was coming off a 3 1/2-length win over $75,000 maiden claimers at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meet Oct. 23. Richard Matlow trains the winner, who was making his third start and had been training smartly for this race at Hollywood, including a bullet three-furlong work (:35 3/5) on Nov. 20.
This was the first graded stakes win for the 66-year-old Matlow, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) earlier this year.
“I was diagnosed about seven months ago," he said. "I was misdiagnosed for about a year. I’ve got a bad foot and my hands are not good, but other than that I’m not bad, still come to the barn every day. This is probably one of my biggest wins, first graded stakes.
"I liked this horse because he was a big lanky horse -- he had a good walk on him and he had good dimension," Matlow said of the $10,500 yearling buy. "Those other horses are seasoned horses, and I just took a shot because he’s eligible. I knew this horse was going to route so I figured to take a shot and maybe get part of it.”
A little slow into stride from his rail post in the field of six after being bumped, Jack o' Lantern was reserved early. Backbackbackgone, with leading Hollywood rider Rafael Bejarano aboard, took the early lead from Ventana, who applied pressure from the outside as they went :22.64 for the opening quarter mile and :45.48 for the half. Leaving the backstretch in the packed field, the inside was open and Jack o' Lantern moved up past several horses to position himself in contention on the turn, poised to make a move.
In the stretch run, five of the six horses had a chance to win, but Backbackbackgone drifted out, allowing Enriquez to guide Jack o' Lantern to the lead with a furlong left. Azul Leon, the 6-5 favorite who was forced to take the overland route rounding the bend, charged from the outside once clear for Garrett Gomez and was gaining on the winner, who had opened a clear advantage. But Jack o' Lantern would not be denied.
"I had a great trip," said the veteran rider Enriquez, who earned his second graded stakes win at Hollywood. "I thought Bejarano had the horse to beat because he was the speed of the race. I just let him get the lead and show me the way.
"Into the lane I saw that he was pushing out the horse outside of him and there was a chance to get to the hole before he came in. Fortunately, I had a lot of horse and when I asked him he really fired. I'm so happy to win this race for Richard Matlow. He's been supporting me all my life and I really appreciate it."
Blinkers have proven to be an important addition for Jack o' Lantern, who has won both of his starts since Matlow made the equipment change. He began his career with a fifth-place finish in $80,000 maiden claiming company at Del Mar Aug. 29. The victory, worth $63,700, pushed Jack o' Lantern's earnings to $82,440.
Bred by Equus Farm, the winner is out of the Northern Baby mare Northern Guide and was purchased at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale last year.
Backbackbackgone and Congor Bay trailed.