Hollywood Park Race Report: A Fantastic Filly

Published in the April 28 issue of The Blood-Horse
For some, it may be Mach-speed roller coasters or bungee jumping. Others run with the bulls in Pamplona or go crowd surfing at a punk rock concert.

There are precious few experiences, however, that can match the rush of riding a hot-blooded Thoroughbred. Just imagine...you're alone on the lead at speeds beyond belief, riding low with your hair on fire. And then, without warning, your horse shifts direction. Ouch.

It's an occupational hazard jockeys deal with on a daily basis. As a teenager, Garrett Gomez used to get his kicks bull riding. These days, the 29-year-old jockey has his hands full with Fantastic Filly, an erratic lass who just happens to be the best 3-year-old grass filly around. The salt-and-pepper daughter of Myrakalu rang up another one on April 22, outrunning the Irish filly Innit in the $109,800 Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) at a mile.

Make no mistake. Fantastic Filly has talent to burn. But get on her back and you're walking a tightrope. Grasp the reins too tightly and she's liable to cut loose. Use the whip at your own peril. Gomez caught his first glimpse back in November when he strapped in for the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) and somehow lived to tell about it.

"That's her," he conceded. "It's not only that she's unpredictable, she's got an attitude to her. She wants things done her way. And if you just sit there, she's fine. But if you want to make a suggestion, she just doesn't like it."

Nevertheless, Gomez' soothing touch in the saddle made all the difference in the Senorita. While second choice Innit got pinched hard at the start, Fantastic Filly was a comfortable last as longshot Tangoio blitzed around the clubhouse turn. From there, Gomez and Fantastic Filly coolly threaded through the field, following Innit to the top of the stretch. There, the two fillies engaged.

Innit dug deep and made Fantastic Filly work. Gomez, sensing his filly was starting to feel the effects of her 123-pound impost, reached back and cracked her with his whip. There was no ducking and diving--this time. Instead, she pinned her ears and turned it up a notch, lengthening out to edge Innit by a half-length. Blushing Bride, making her debut for trainer Julio Canani, was another half-length away in third. The time was 1:35.13.

Owned by Agri-Harvest Inc., Fantastic Filly has yet to be defeated on local turf, and her overall streak has now hit four. With each passing race, trainer Bobby Frankel is more inclined to think she will have little difficulty with long distances. Since they first met last fall, Gomez has sensed an overall improvement in the filly's physique and, yes, temperament, as well.

"Physically and mentally, she's not even the same horse," Gomez pointed out. "And she's still a handful."

At this point, she's more than the other fillies can handle, as well.

Frankel walked away with both of the weekend big ones, the Senorita following Fateful Dream's thriller over National Anthem in the $107,100 Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) the day before.

A son of Distant View owned by Edmund Gann, Fateful Dream turned in a decisive effort that immediately thrust him into the thick of the $350,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), which takes place on May 28.

True, the 4-year-old colt has quite an affinity for the Hollywood grass (he's two-for-two now). More important, however, is Fateful Dream's daredevil poise and instant ignition, which helps in tight situations and definitely pays off at crunch time.

It helps, of course, to have a rider with icy hands. David Flores climbed aboard Fateful Dream for the 1 1/16-mile Inglewood. Though it was their first collaboration, you wouldn't have been able to tell. Settling in at the back of a five-horse field early, Fateful Dream finally rolled into contention leaving the far turn, where Flores paused briefly, then launched the colt up the rail. Fateful Dream responded with a scorching stretch run, beating National Anthem, a budding star from the Ron McAnally barn, by a length. Casino King, the pacesetter, was just a nose away in third.

Dead of the Night

The persistent energy crisis in California has caused the elimination of Hollywood's fan-popular Friday night programs. They did manage to squeeze in an evening opener on April 20, and the fans responded to an on-track tune of 23,609. Those brave souls who dared a late-night driving rain were treated to a head-banging version of the $109,800 Will Rogers Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds.

The race was a split between Media Mogul, owned by Gary Barber and Team Valor, and CRK Stable's Dr. Park, who pretty much had the one-mile Will Rogers to themselves the moment the gates flew open. Dr. Park, a son of Honor Grades trained by John Sadler, set a sensible pace under Tyler Baze, though Alex Solis had Media Mogul right on his heels every step of the way. The two finally hooked up entering the far turn, and they ran the final three furlongs cheek by jowl.

Most in the house figured the nod had went to Media Mogul, a First Trump gelding from the Jenine Sahadi stable. The camera saw it otherwise. It was a flat-out tie. The finish was something to see, as Learing At Kathy's late rally fell just a head short of making it three on the wire. The mile went in 1:35.10.

Look for them to have at it again in the nine-furlong Cinema Handicap (gr. IIIT) on May 20.

Santa Anita's closing day card featured the $133,625 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT). It went to Jerry and Ann Moss' Lake William, a son of Salt Lake who came barreling down the hill to claim the biggest prize of his career. Though he paid a healthy $21.40, the 5-year-old may have now chosen to deliver on his early promise.

The future seemed bright after Lake William kicked off his career with three straight sprint wins. Things went amiss after that, according to his trainer, Richard Mandella, but with a brief respite and new closing tactics now under his belt, Lake William has come back to his shining best. In the San Simeon, he chased 2-5 Malabar Gold early, then chewed him up, spit him out, and moved on to beat Macward by a half-length. Malabar Gold barely held onto fourth, creating some juicy show payoffs.

The Harty Boys
Their looks are magnificent. Their pedigrees will make you drool. The second wave of Godolphin 2-year-olds has arrived from Dubai under the care of trainer Eoin Harty. Planes recently disgorged a troop of 56 blue-blooded juveniles, a healthy bunch that according to Harty is visibly better suited to the demands of American racing.

"A lot more thought went into what type of horses to buy this year," said Harty, adding that a majority are fit and essentially ready to run. "We're basically a good month to six weeks ahead of ourselves this year than we were last year. Most of them had quite a bit of training in Dubai."

With nearly twice as many horses, Harty mentioned a detachment will head to Arlington Park in the coming weeks, where they will race under the tutelage of assistant trainer David Duggan. And as with last year, when the unassuming Street Cry emerged over the summer as the cream of Harty's first crop, the mission is simple: identify the next stars.

"It doesn't matter who they're by or who they're out of," Harty acknowledged. "The bottom line is can they run or not?"

Over the next few months, everybody will find out.

(Chart, Equibase)