The Brazilian-bred Leroidesanimaux, who set a track record at Saturday's 1 1/16-mile distance on the Hollywood Park turf May 1, proved it was no fluke with a determined victory in the $400,000 Citation Handicap (gr. IT).
Leroidesanimaux won his fifth in a row for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner T N T Stud. The 4-year-old Candy Stripes colt saved ground for Jon Court and found daylight coming off the far turn. He reached the front in upper stretch and held off 41-1 shot A to the Z by a half-length in a time of 1:41 1/5 for the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf.
"So far, we haven't made any mistakes together," said Court, who has piloted Leroidesanimaux in his last three victories. "Today, this colt was ready to go at any time, pretty much push-button. He likes to be competitive in the race early on, so I was able to set him off the front-runners and pick my spot when it appeared.
"I was concerned when (A to the Z) came at me. But I finished up on him, and he held them off. Actually, he kind of pulled away when the horse made a run at me at the sixteenth-pole."
A to the Z, ridden by Garrett Gomez, made a big move on the inside of Leroidesanimaux, forcing Three Valleys, a second Frankel runner making his United States debut for Juddmonte Farms, to alter course sharply from off the rail after rallying from last in the stretch. Three Valleys, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, switched to the outside and ran down Mingun by a half-length to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
"We had some questions about him running against these kind of horses for the first time," Gomez noted in reference to trainer and part owner Paula Capestro. "But I think he gave us a great answer."
"I didn't have that bad a trip," Dominguez said of Three Valleys. "I had to angle my horse out at the eighth pole, but it wasn't bad at all. I thought he was extremely professional, kind of a push-button type, and he really ran an outstanding race considering he was running against older horses."
A third Frankel entry, Nothing to Lose, the lukewarm 5-2 favorite in the field of 10 ridden by Edgar Prado, was not a factor and finished sixth.
"I thought he'd kick a little better than he did," Prado said. "Actually, he handled the turf beautiful, but he just didn't have any kick left."
Frankel, who won his 14th Turf Festival race, said, "Well, if you run three, your odds are even better of winning, right?" But he admitted that he was initially surprised by the success of Leroidesanimaux.
"Well at the beginning, yeah, because you get horses from horses from foreign countries, especially South America, and you don't realize there're as good as the American horses or the European horses, and all's he had done was break his maiden down there."
In his first race since transferring from his native Brazil for the 2004 campaign, Leroidesanimaux finished fourth on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in a first-level allowance race. The chestnut colt has not lost since, although he was laid off after his record-breaking victory in the Inglewood (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood until his tune-up in the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 30.
The $240,000 winner's share Saturday pushed his earnings this year to $436,860 with five wins in six tries. Overall, he sports a 6-1-0 record in nine starts.
Leroidesanimaux, breaking from the two post, settled in behind the leaders on the inside as Buckland Manor set the moderate early pace of :23 3/5 and :48 anf 1:11 2/5. As they came off the far turn, Court angled out slightly for the stretch run, splitting the retreating Buckland Manor on the inside and Mingun on the outside to get the lead. A to the Z dug in for the stretch run after also splitting rivals to get to the inside, but could not get past the winner.
"The two-post made him a perfect spot," Frankel said. "I thought there was a chance he'd be on the lead, but that's where the rider comes in. You got to leave it up to them, and when you've got a speed horse and there's other speed in the race you've got to let him use his judgment."
Mingun missed the break with Kent Desormeaux and ran a big race to finish fourth after being hustled into contention on the backstretch.
The winner paid $8.20, $5.80 and $4.80 as the second choice. A to the Z returned $25.80 and $13, completing a $189.60 exacta. Three Valleys ($7.40) was part of a $2,163.40 trifecta.
Following Mingun in fourth came Buckland Manor, Nothing to Lose, Tsigane, Fairly Ransom, Gondolieri and Special Ring.