Making his first start in the United States, English-bred Storming Home proved trainer Neil Drysdale's confidence in him was well placed as he came home with authority Saturday in winning Saturday's $400,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap over 12 furlongs on the Hollywood Park turf.
Drysdale had anticipated a strong effort from the Al Maktoum Sheik Maktoum-owned son of Machiavellian in his first start for the Hall of Fame trainer, and he wasn't disappointed.
Ridden by Gary Stevens, the 5-year-old bay, carrying 122 pounds, swept up wide on the turn to collar Denon, also carrying 122, in the stretch and pulled away with urging to post a two-length triumph in a stakes record-tying time of 2:25 1/5. Irish bred Ballingarry was 4 lengths farther back in third and Night Life fourth in the field of eight. The Tin Man faded after setting the pace into the stretch.
Winner of the Group I Champion Stakes at Newmarket, Storming Home was making his first start since a 15th place showing in the Japan Cup on Nov. 24. Drysdale is expecting a big summer and fall campaign.
"The long term goal for this horse is the Breeders' Cup," Drysdale said.
Storming Home broke a step slowly and was last early as 9-5 favorite The Tin Man, making his first start in three months with Mike Smith in the irons, with slight pressure from Night Life and Victor Espinoza, carved out fractions of :49 1/5 for the opening half mile, 1:13 1/5 for six furlongs and 1:36 4/5 for the mile. Storming Home progressed on the outside of the field and was third on the final turn, while Denon stalked at the rail for Jerry Bailey.
By the time they settled in for the stretch run, the battle for the front end was down to Denon and Storming Home. After getting to the lead, Stevens had to deliver a couple of cracks of the whip in deep stretch to keep the winner going and he pulled away for a comfortable win.
``He got left at the gate. I think the start took him by surprise,'' Drysdale told The Associated Press
. ``They start a little faster in the United States. He's got tactical speed and Gary moved him up going down the backstretch.''
``We thought we were going to be laying closer much earlier. He didn't break real well, which is normal for horses coming from Europe,'' Stevens said. ``The first time they come from Europe, they usually don't race as well as the American horses.''
``I came a long way to run second,'' said jockey Jerry Bailey, who flew in from New York. ``(Storming Home) came to me. I had to let him go on. He had too much horse.''
Storming Home picked up a winning share of $240,000 to go over the $1 million mark ($1,125,588) with his sixth win in 20 career outings.
The Tin Man finished seventh in the eight-horse field after leading most of the race under Smith. The Tin Man carried high weight of 123 pounds.
``He didn't run his race and I don't know why,'' trainer Richard Mandella said. ``I didn't see an excuse in the race. He just was not himself.''
The third choice at 5-2, the winner paid $7.60, $4.40 and $3.60. Denon, was the 2-1 second choice at post time, returned $3.40 and $2.80. Ballingarry showed for $4. The $2 exacta was worth $27.