Early Flyer Outlasts Squirtle Squirt in Barrera Memorial

Squirtle Squirt set scorching early fractions but was overtaken by Early Flyer in deep stretch in Monday's $108,600 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III) at Hollywood Park. Under Chris McCarron, Ron McAnally-trained Early Flyer completed the seven furlongs in 1:20.42 on a fast track to earn his first win since February's San Vicente Stakes (gr. II). The winning time eclipses the previous stakes record.

Squirtle Squirt sprinted the opening quarter-mile in :21.77, with Skip to the Stone and Trailthefox right on his heels. Skip to the Stone ranged up to within a head of the leader as they raced a half-mile in a seemingly suicidal time of :43.82. At this point, Trailthefox had packed it in, but Early Flyer was just getting started, racing two lengths behind the leaders. Squirtle Squirt and Early Flyer were heads apart after six furlongs in 1:07.98 -- faster than Caller One's time of 1:08.35 in winning Sunday's six-furlong Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park. The Bobby Frankel-trained Squirtle Squirt had every right to tire at that point, but yielded only grudgingly in the final furlong, as Early Flyer pulled his way to a 3/4-length victory.

"It was very hot," McAnally said of the pace. "When the announcer said :43 and 3/5, I said, 'Oh my goodness, hopefully we're gonna get them.' What a nice horse, he's just as game as they come. And he beat a nice colt. He's proved it here at Hollywood. I knew Bobby (Frankel) had the horse to beat."

Top Hit closed from next-to-last to finish third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Squirtle Squirt. Skip to the Stone came home another 4 1/2 lengths farther back, followed by Trailthefox, Way to the Top, and Old Woody.

A 3-year-old son of Gilded Time--Bistra, by Classic Go Go, Early Flyer has yet to finish out of the money in eight career starts, winning on four occasions. Besides the San Vicente and Lazaro Barrera wins, he also finished second in both the San Miguel Stakes (gr. III) and California Derby, and third in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II). He earned VHW Stables $65,160 for the win. Early Flyer was bred in Kentucky by Verne H. Winchell.

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the contentious field, Early Flyer returned $4.40, $2.40, and $2.20. Squirtle Squirt paid $2.60 and $2.40. Top Hit was worth $4 to show. The $1 exacta combination returned $4.70.

The victory was especially meaningful to McAnally, who was good friends with Barerra.

"We had the favorite here a couple of times in this race and we got beat," the conditioner said. "I really felt bad. Laz was such a good friend of mine. I lived with him for two years, really a super guy." (Chart, Equibase)