Favored Rhythm Mad won a grueling stretch duel with the old-timer Continental Red in Saturday's $350,000 Jim Murray Handicap on the Hollywood Park turf course.
Racing in mid-pack through most of the 1 1/2-mile test, Alex Solis guided Rhythm Mad, a 4-year-old French-bred colt by King's Theatre up on the outside of Continental Red and Corey Nakatani, who had taken over the lead in the stretch from tiring pacesetter Right Proof. After getting head-to-head with Continental Red, the 8-year-old California-bred gelding, Solis prevailed by a neck with a strong hand ride through the closing stages.
``It might sound crazy, but I feel he was a little dull,'' Solis said. ``He is capable of doing more. He's a good horse. God willing, he stays sound, and I think he's going to be a heck of a good horse at the end of the year.''
Gassan Royal, ridden by Javier Santiago for trainer Bobby Frankel, was a close third, a hlaf-length behind Continental Red, in the field of seven older turf runners. Frankel was looking for his seventh win in the Murray.
The final time was 2:26 3/5 on a firm course. Ballingarry was fourth, three lengths behind Gassan Royal, followed by Gene de Campeao, Right Proof and Runaway Dancer.
Right Proof was allowed to open a solid lead over Continental Road while clicking off fractions of :24 1/5, :49 1/5, 1:14 4/5 and 1:39 1/5.
Part owner Bruce Headly trains Rhythm Mad for Four Star Stable LLC, who won $210,000 for the victory. Rhythm Mad, who raced in France for Andre Fabre, won for the second time in four starts since transferring to the United States in February. He was second to Meteor Storm in the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) April 18. Overall, Rhythm Mad has won five of 10 with earnings of $355,205.
``We were expecting a win. Hell of a stretch run,'' Headley said. ``He was trapped a little bit last time (in the Capistrano at Santa Anita) and had to check at the head of the stretch. This time he had clear sailing.''
Owner Jess Stonestreet Jackson Jr. found out about Rhythm Mad through bloodstock agent Emmanuel De Seroux, the husband of Laura De Seroux, who trains Ballingarry. Jackson saw a tape of Rhythm Mad and bought him in a partnership. He was rooting for his horse and Ballingarry.
``We were hoping for one and two,'' said Jackson, who owns Kendall-Jackson Winery in Northern California. ``We are going to go up and toast him with Kendall Jackson now.''
The inner paid $5.40, $3.40 and $2.80. Continental Red, in his 61st career start, returned $4.60 and $3.40 and Gassan Royal's show was $3.20. The $2 exacta was worth $22.80.