California-bred Proud Tower cruises to victory in the Hollywood Prevue as favored Yonaguska finishes third.

California-bred Proud Tower cruises to victory in the Hollywood Prevue as favored Yonaguska finishes third.

Associated Press/ Benoit Photo

Hollywood Park Racing: Cal-Bred Proud Tower Impresses

This article published in the Nov. 25 issue of The Blood-Horse
An ambitious youngster, bred in obscurity and hailing from a small-time outfit, suddenly becomes the talk of the town? Hey, it can happen. On the heels of this year's Breeders' Cup, which saw Tiznow finally knock one over the fence for the home team, California's breeders--great and small--are no longer seeing the glass as just half full. Instead, it's overflowing with possibilities.

Proud Tower chalked up another one for the overachievers on Nov. 19, winning the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) at seven furlongs. Originally, the plan was to have Proud Tower sit back and strike late. But just a quarter-mile in, the 2-year-old Proud Irish colt had already bulled his way up the rail to hit the front. At that point, jockey Victor Espinoza knew the gun was loaded.

Proud Tower finally put 'em away on the curve, shaking loose for good passing the quarter pole. He was a length clear under the wire, covering the distance in 1:23.01. Chinook Cat, a son of Tabasco Cat from the Craig Lewis barn, ran hard the entire trip to keep second, while Yonaguska, a dead-heat winner of Saratoga's Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) but a bust in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), ended up third, holding off 113-1 Way to the Top.

There had been lingering concern as to whether Proud Tower could take the plunge from Cal-bred competition to graded company. But in his four starts prior to the Prevue he had done nothing to make trainer Jose Silva think he didn't belong. His coup de grace came last month at the Cal Cup, when he turned in the day's most impressive effort with an eight-length romp in the Juvenile.

His Cal Cup race was also at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance he'd face if he stepped up for the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) three weeks hence. Silva and owner/breeder Daniel Cardenas, however, both inclined to take things at a slower pace, may keep Proud Tower under wraps until Santa Anita's 3-year-old series gets underway.

High Handful
There's no one around who handles top turf distaffers quite like Bobby Frankel. Among the best on his lengthy list were Toussaud and Spanish Fern. Both were daughters of El Gran Senor. Both were blessed with class and talent.

And both were head cases. Their grade I exploits in recent years can be directly traced to Frankel's ability to sate the touchy twosome, for the art of training Thoroughbreds goes beyond mere physical and mental conditioning. Sometimes it comes down to psychotherapy.

Such was the circumstance with High Walden, yet another El Gran Senor filly bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms. The 3-year-old recently arrived from Europe, where her ability manifested in clashes with the likes of Petrushka, Crimplene, and Ela Athena. She also came with the reputation as a handful.

Frankel had High Walden primed for her California debut in a grass allowance at Oak Tree a month ago, and she made it as far as the gate. Then she threw a fit. Wouldn't budge. Refused to load. Starter Jay Slender and his crew did everything but sedate her. Nothing worked. She ultimately was scratched.

After myriad schooling sessions in the interim, High Walden gave Frankel reason to think big on Nov. 18 after she behaved like a belle and took the $150,000 Matiara Stakes at nine furlongs on turf.

Breaking cleanly from the rail, High Walden settled into third early, then revved up her attack on the far turn. She collared the pacesetting Four Plus Four near the eighth pole and went on to beat French import Vencera by 1 1/2 lengths. Her final time was 1:46.90.

(Chart, Equibase)