Outsider Unusual Suspect found a gaping hole mid-stretch and exploited it for his first graded stakes win in the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by a nose on Nov. 24.
With Tyler Baze aboard, the California-bred 16-1 shot Unusual Suspect trailed the field into the homestretch while racing at the rail. The son of Unusual Heat needed racing room and he got all he needed when tiring favorite Fast Parade drifted out severely and took half the field with him. Unusual Suspect got up in the final strides to defeat 9-1 shot Bonfante.
There were three noses on the wire as Desert Code took third and Quietly Mine finished a neck back in fourth. Both were severely bothered by Fast Parade's antics and settled for third and fourth, respectively.
Fast Parade, after setting a solid pace for Patrick Valenzuela (:23.31, :45.58), was disqualified from sixth and placed ninth. Stewards made no other changes in the order of finish. Forced to take up or alter course in the mishap were Desert Code, Quietly Mine, Moth Ball, T.D. Vance, and Night Chapter.
"I was last at the top of the stretch--I got to watch it all," Baze said with a smile. "I hit him once and he took off like a rocket. I saw (the trouble) happen and I saw that hole open up and I'm saying to myself, 'Stay open.' This horse gave me 100%. I couldn't have had a more perfect trip."
The 3-year-old Unusual Suspect is an Abrams family project who has really come into his own this year. Co-owner Barry Abrams trains the colt for for David and Dyan Abrams. David Abrams bred Unusual Suspect, who is out of the Crested Wave mare Penpont.
Coming off a win in the California Cup Mile just three weeks ago on the Santa Anita Park turf course, Unusual Suspect has won five of his 12 starts in 2007. Career-wise, he owns a 6-3-2 record in 19 races, mostly on grass, with earnings of $469,136. The dark bay has a fondness for the Hollywood Park turf as well, having won three of seven over the layout.
“He’s won at three tracks in a month," Abrams noted of Unusual Suspect. "He won the Bay Meadows Derby, the California Cup Mile, and then he won the Turf Express here. Basically he’s a nice horse and a come-from-behind horse. He came from behind today and had no troubles. Everything went beautifully."
In a blanket finish, Bonfante, ridden by Martin Garcia, edged Desert Code and Aaron Gryder by a head for second. The winning time was 1:09.06 on firm going.
"Pat (Valenzuela) was having trouble keeping his horse straight," Gryder said. "It changed the whole complexion of the race. My horse broke a little slowly, but he got right into it. He would have been right there if he could have run straight."
The winner paid $34.20, $15.20, and $6.80. Bonfante, a second California bred in the Turf Express who is trained by Ron McAnally, returned $10.20 and $6.60, completing a whopping $2 exacta worth $228.20. Desert Code was $7 to show in his first start since finishing fourth in last July's Swaps Breeders' Cup (gr. II) for trainer David Hofmans.
Quietly Mine was followed by El Manuel, Fast Parade, Night Chapter, Moth Ball, and T.D. Vance. Council Member scratched.