Stewards disqualified even-money choice St Trinians from a 1 1/4-length victory for interference in the stretch run of the $150,000 Milady Handicap (gr. II), making 8-1 shot Ultra Blend the winner at Hollywood Park May 21 (VIDEO).
The disqualification of St Trinians was the first in a graded stakes at Hollywood Park since Futural was disqualified from first to third -- making Aptitude the winner -- in the 2001 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).
With the decision, Nels Erickson's California-bred Ultra Blend became a graded stakes winner for the first time for trainer Art Sherman. St Trinians was placed fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track test for fillies and mares following a lengthy inquiry.
St Trinians, closing from five paths wide off the final turn, drifted in under jockey Joe Talamo in deep stretch. Stewards ruled she impeded both Ultra Blend, the second-place finisher ridden by David Flores, and She's Cheeky, with Brice Blanc aboard, who was in third position at the time of the incident. She's Cheeky took up severely, allowing American Story to shoot past along the inside for the show spot.
Ultra Blend was moved up to first, with American Story, ridden by Alonso Quinonez, placed second and She's Cheeky third.
"He (Talamo) kept putting pressure on us, but I don’t think he knew there were two other guys inside," Flores noted. "It looked like we were getting clear, but we weren’t clear yet. Anything can happen in this game."
Talamo countered: “(St Trinians) came over a little bit, but right when I felt her leaning in I grabbed her right away. I don’t think she deserved to be disqualified. The outcome should have stayed the same. What can you do?”
The Milady is the third win in a row for Ultra Blend and the fifth in the past six races for the 5-year-old daughter of Richly Blended out of the Desert Classic mare Ankha. BnD Chase Thoroughbreds and Elven Adams bred the remarkably consistent bay mare who improved to 10-4-5 in 21 starts with earnings of $625,646.
"That’s horse racing," Sherman said of the disqualification. "You take it any way you can. You have to like this mare; she’s never off the board. Ever since she’s been a 2-year-old, she’s been one of my favorites."
Sherman, who won the Milady for the first time, said the 1 1/8-mile Vanity Handicap (gr. I) June 18 would probably be the next start for Ultra Blend.
Ultra Blend had been dominating state-bred foes with four consecutive stakes wins. She made her return to open graded company for the first time since the 2009 Railbird, in which she finished fourth. In her most recent start, Ultra Blend registered a one-length win in the 7 1/2-furlong B Thoughtful Stakes over Hollywood's Cushion Track April 23.
American Story set a pedestrian pace (:23.90, :48.23, 1:12.64) over She's Cheeky and Tanda along the inside with St Trinians stalking comfortably on the outside. St Trinians angled out on the final turn and drove for home with Ultra Blend in close pursuit to her inside. St Trinians was getting in as they passed She's Cheeky to their inside, causing Ultra Blend's jockey, Flores, to steady while in tight quarters. The action also affected She's Cheeky, who briefly lost her action.
St Trinians finished up strongly for a quickly disputed victory. The final time was 1:43.07.
Ultra Blend, who was under consideration for the state-bred Fran's Valentine Stakes on turf the following day, paid $18, $7.60, and $4.60 as the fifth choice in the field of seven. American Story returned $6.80 and $4.40 in her graded stakes debut for trainer Bob Baffert, completing a $96.60 exacta. She's Cheeky was $11.20 to show.
“We were sitting on the fence whether to run her here or the California-bred race, but it just meant so much more to have a graded stakes win," Sherman said. "I’m so happy for the owner because she’s going to be bred to Big Brown the first of next year."
St Trinians, a British-bred 6-year-old mare trained by Mike Mitchell, was making her first start at Hollywood Park since nearly upsetting 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta in last June's Vanity. She was followed in the official order by Washington Bridge, Tanda, and Church Camp.
“I’ve quit trying to guess what the stewards think," Mitchell said. "I disagree with their ruling; I’ve seen so many different calls. But that’s just me.”