The rail opened up for favored Nashoba's Key at the top of the stretch and the undefeated filly kicked through to defeat a determined Balance by a half-length in the $294,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) for her first grade I stakes win Saturday at Hollywood Park.
The victory was also the first grade I win for the 17-year-old riding sensation Joe Talamo.
In the four-horse Vanity at 1 1/8 miles on the Cushion Track, Nashoba's Key on the inside and Hystericalady, ridden by David Flores, jockeyed for position behind the front-running Ballado's Thunder, who set a sensible pace of :24 1/5, :47 4/5 and 1:12 1/5.
The grade I winner Balance, trailing the compact field under Victor Espinoza, swept up on the outside of her rivals to gain the advantage at the head of the stretch. But Nashoba's Key, who fell back to last briefly while Talamo looked for room along the inside, suddenly had plenty of space when Ballado's Thunder fanned off the rail. Nashoba's Key rallied smartly to get the lead mid-stretch and outfought Balance through the lane to record her fifth consecutive win. The final time was 1:48 4/5.
Louisiana import Talamo said he was boxed in for most of the journey. "Corey Nakatani (on Ballado's Thunder) stayed about a length off the rail the whole way, and she saw that hole and just wanted to go," Talamo said. "She was keen and content the whole race, just waiting to go. When that hole opened at the top of the stretch, she just exploded. She's such a tremendous filly and has so much heart. You could see in the Milady she was five lengths behind and today she was close up. She's so versatile, that's what makes her special."
Warren B. Williamson bred and owns Nashoba's Key, a 4-year-old California-bred bay daughter of Silver Hawk--Nashoba (Caerleon) who earned her first graded stakes win in the 1 1/16-mile Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) one month ago for trainer Carla Gaines. In the Milady, she defeated both Hystericalady and Balance.
The Milady was the first graded stakes win for Nashoba's Key, who did not race prior to this season and has earned $443,460 in her brief career. Nashoba's Key won the first three races of her career on turf.
“Joseph did a tremendous job today," Gaines said. "He was trapped on the rail and lost a little ground, but I told him earlier to reserve that kick home and he did. She is a very versatile horse with an aggressive attitude. We’re going to have to see how she comes out of this race and then we’ll decide we’re she goes next but she has a lot of options.”
The Milady was also the first race for Balance in nearly three months for trainer David Hofmans, and the daughter of Thunder Gulch -- winner of the Santa Margarita (gr. I) and La Canada (gr. II) earlier this year -- was much tougher Saturday while coming up just short.
“She ran great today," Espinoza said. "She ran her race. (Ballado's Thunder) was moving out and kind of pushed us out a little bit. That let the winner get through. It's just one of those things. Next time, she'll be much better."
“I thought she ran great," Hofmans concurred. "Unfortunately, Nakatani pushed everybody wide and opened up the fence. We got carried wide, and the winner got through on the fence.”
Nashoba's Key paid $4.20 and $2.40. Balance returned $3 and completed a $10.20 exacta. She was 1 3/4 lengths clear of Hystericalady, who was followed home by a half-length by Ballado's Thunder.