Puxa Saco and Mike Smith win the Desert Stormer Handicap, Sunday at Hollywood Park.

Puxa Saco and Mike Smith win the Desert Stormer Handicap, Sunday at Hollywood Park.


Deserving Puxa Saco Rolls in Desert Stormer

Jockey Mike Smith rode even-money favorite Puxa Saco to a three-length victory over Tucked Away in the $106,400 Desert Stormer Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at six furlongs Sunday at Hollywood Park.

Puxa Saco, owned by Richard Rowan and trained by Jenine Sahadi, paid $4, $2.60, and $2.10 while snapping a seven-race losing streak. Tucked Away, ridden by Alex Solis, paid $4.40 and $2.40. Chilean-bred Ramatuelle, third under Garrett Gomez five lengths behind the winner, paid $2.40.

"She's been running winning races but coming up a head short, a neck short," Smith, Puxa Saco's regular rider, said. "We finally got there. I was a little concerned about the cutback in distance for her (from seven furlongs) because she's been dropping back so far. But today she got away better than she had in a while."

Puxa Saco covered six furlongs in 1:09.79 in winning for the sixth time in 20 career starts. The winner's check of $63,840 boosted the 5-year-old chestnut mare's earnings to $400,575.

"All I have to say is that there's no horse in America that deserved to win a stake more than her," laughed Sahadi. "She deserved to win one of these hundred-granders lately. You can't knock her at all, she tries so hard every time and she definitely deserved to win one of these. And today was her day. So I'm glad that it worked out.

"It looked a little dicey (around the turn), but I was thinking if I can't get through in a five horse field, Mike Smith is a dead man. Bring him all the way here from Kentucky, he would have had a hay day with me."

The daughter of Dehere saved ground into the stretch and made her winning move between horses at the quarter pole, clearing away after seizing the lead in upper stretch from the pacesetter Abounding Truth. Fractions were solid – :22 1/5, :45 1/5 and :57 1/5.

"I was able to stay within reach anyway," Smith said "Then in the middle of the turn when I found my way out, she was pretty much gone. She was going easy. I didn't really have to get after her. She won nice."

Homer Noble and Gayno Stable bred Puxa Saco in Kentucky. She's from the Cox's Ridge mare Salty Sal.

Puxa Saco was coming off a third-place finish in the Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 7 when she finished three-quarters of a length behind the victorious My Trusty Cat.

Abounding Truth finished fourth while Quick Cover was last in the five-horse field.

(Chart, Equibase)