He didn't have enough of it in his first stateside start, and lost all of it at the beginning of the Native Diver Handicap (gr. III), but Momentum gathered his namesake over the Native Diver's nine furlongs and proved a convincing winner of the $100,000 race at Hollywood Park Dec. 9. After receiving the 3-year-old son of Nureyev following a private sale, trainer Craig Dollase noticed Momentum's action might be better suited for the dirt, over which he had yet to run in seven contests in Great Britain. Certainly his first turf try in California, a solid second to the ultra-tough Mizzen Mast in the Bien Bien Stakes last month, would have discouraged no one from trying him on the grass again. Then fate played a hand. Dollase tried to supplement Momentum into the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 25, but no spot opened up. So after three solid dirt works since the Bien Bien, Dollase supplemented him into the Native Diver, where he still faced the monumental task of trying to defeat a Bobby Frankel-trained charge in a graded stakes. Frankel's Euchre, even coming off a five-month layoff, was sent away the even-money favorite in the field of seven. Madraar, a half-brother to soon-to-be-anointed Turf champion Fantastic Light, broke best and assumed a clear lead into the clubhouse turn, tracked by Euchre on his outside and Bob Baffert's Pie N Burger at the rail. Meanwhile, Momentum got a late wake-up call and spotted the field a length in the first few steps out of the gate. He settled in mid-pack. Up the backstretch, after a half-mile in :47.28, there was no change in that order until Corey Nakatani got Momentum moving on the outside. Euchre was about to swallow up Madraar into the second turn, but Momentum was the bigger fish, and gulped them both in on the curve. Straightening for home Momentum lived up to his name, though Garrett Gomez and Euchre weren't done, gamely making a race of it all the way to the wire, falling a length short in 1:48.24 over the fast going. Momentum was given 113 pounds coming into the race, but with Nakatani riding at 117, Momentum was actually in receipt of four pounds from Euchre. Last Parade, an Argentine-bred from the red-hot William Currin barn, was along for third. Completing the order of finish were Grey Memo, Pie N Burger, Madraar, and Penamacor, the latter a disappointment for Ron McAnally. "He may have been short in the Bien Bien, but we got plenty of works into him," noted Dollase, who turned 31 the day before the Native Diver. He's taken to the dirt quite well, and we're looking forward to the 4-year-old series of races at Santa Anita, starting with the San Fernando (gr. II, Jan. 12)." Nakatani took things a step further. "I'm looking for bigger things. This is a legitimate horse for the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I)." With the retirement of Tiznow, and with Skimming having to prove he doesn't need to carry the Del Mar surface around with him, why not dream big? The handicap division in California is there for the taking. Momentum was bred in Kentucky by John and Barbara Smicklas, and is owned by John Paul Reddam. Reddam and Dollase teamed up two weeks ago to win the Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) with late-running demon Swept Overboard. It seems Dollase is about the only one standing between Frankel and the winner's circle in Southern California. With the win, Momentum pushed his earnings into six figures, at $137,929. He has now won four of nine starts, and has been off the board just once. He returned $11.80 as second-choice.
HOLLYWOOD SWINGIN' One day before the Native Diver, Chris McCarron became the all-time winningest stakes rider at Hollywood Park. McCarron broke a tie with Bill Shoemaker when he scored with Bella Bella Bella in the Golden Ballet Stakes, earning his 281st stakes victory in Inglewood. That record stood for exactly five races, when McCarron pushed his total to 282 with a victory aboard Nepenthe in the 12-furlong Waya Handicap for trainer Ron McAnally and Janice and Robert McNair's Stonerside Stable. McCarron scored five times on the day from his six mounts, the final one being on an impressive 2-year-old, Earl of Danby, who annihilated a maiden field by four lengths. He is by Smokester, the sire of Free House, and like that one, Earl of Danby is conditioned by Paco Gonzalez and owned by Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan. (Chart, Equibase)