Benefiting from blinkers and the scratch of speedster Hombre Rapido, Argentine-bred Avanzado led from start to finish to win the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park by more than four lengths on Sunday, covering six furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.85. The track record and stakes record is 1:07 1/5, set by Sunny Blossom in winning the Palos Verdes on Dec. 30, 1989. Kona Gold, the high weight under 124 pounds, finished sixth and last as the 7-5 favorite. Relaxed early, he make a mild rally to third along the rail before fading through the stretch."The weight and his age are all catching up to him," said jockey Alex Solis, who has ridden the 9-year-old Kona Gold in 26 consecutive races, all but the gelding's first start. "I think they should be giving him weight now, because he's an old man. He really got tired the last 16th (of a mile)."Avanzado, a 6-year-old owned by Cee's Stable, LLC, trained by Doug O'Neill and ridden by Tyler Baze under 116 pounds, finished sixth by four lengths behind Kona Gold in the 5 1/2-furlong El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on Jan. 1. But blinkers and the scratch Sunday morning of Hombre Rapido made a difference."The blinkers were a huge help," O'Neill said. "The scratch (of Hombre Rapido) probably was an even bigger help, him (Avanzado) not getting pressure early on. He stood a lot more quiet in the gate with the blinkers on, and he was able to break with the field and that definitely seemed to be a little bit of a problem his last couple of starts."Mellow Fellow rallied from last to gain second, a half-length in front of Disturbingthepeace. Radiata and D'wildcat finished in a dead-heat for fourth, a neck behind Disturbingthepeace, followed by Kona Gold."He's got age and weight going against him, because he spotted Avanzado eight pounds and six years," trainer Bruce Headley said of Kona Gold. "If they want him to compete, they're going to have to stop making him high weight. Alex said he pulled up fine."
Avanzado set fractions of :21.52, :43.81 and :55.58 in winning for the ninth time from 21 starts. He reeled off three consecutive victories in the United States after arriving from South America, including the Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Oct. 6, but had turned in two sub-par performances since. The son of Luhuk earned $90,000, increasing his career total to $373,480. He paid $15 to win as the third choice.(Chart, Equibase)