Eight-year-old gelding Men's Exclusive became the first horse to win the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes on two occasions when he upset favored Caller One in the grade III race at Hollywood Park Sunday.
Hartsel E. Reed homebred Men's Exclusive pressed pacesetter Caller One, then inched ahead in the stretch to earn his 10th win from 35 career starts and the $60,000 winner's share of the purse. The winner completed the six furlongs in 1:09.04 on a fast track.
"I thought Caller One would be vulnerable today the last eighth of a mile," said winning trainer Wesley Ward. "I had spoken to Laffit (winning rider Laffit Pincay Jr.) and I told him to try and keep him close today. If he could, I felt the last sixteenth of a mile, with the campaign he'd had in his last few races, maybe Caller One would be a little weary with someone right on him."
Tavasco rallied to finish second, a half-length behind Men's Exclusive and a neck ahead of Caller One. Lake William, Forest Camp, Morocco, and Very Caerleon completed the order of finish.
Men's Exclusive has now won two of six starts this year for earnings of $589,000, with $400,000 of that coming from his second-place finish to Caller One in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-III). His other win of the year came in January's Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II).
"He's a tough old guy, just an amazing horse," said Pincay. "I rode him the first time he came to the track years ago and I never thought he'd be able to put together four races. He always had problems with his legs, his feet. But he sure has lasted a long time. He's really fooled me. He ran perfect today. He was different than the last time I rode him. He warmed up really good, he was pulling on the pony, and I said, 'Hey, this horse is different today.' I don't know why. Maybe he liked the track. He did win this race last year. I'd have to say he likes this track."
Sunday's win marks the 279th stakes win at Hollywood Park for Pincay, leaving him one behind Willie Shoemaker and Chris McCarron for the all-time lead.
Men's Exclusive paid $12.40, $6, and $2.80. Tavasco returned $15 and $3.20 and completed the $1 exacta worth $84.10. 3-5 favorite Caller One paid $2.20 to show. (Chart, Equibase