Bob Baffert was virtually assured of continuing his stranglehold on
Thursday's Grade 3, $100,000
Prevue Stakes by entering four of the five runners, and the Hall of Famer's
quartet duly gobbled up the top four placings in the Thanksgiving Day feature.
Less predictable, however, was the identity of the Baffert-trained winner --
Really Mr Greely, the 11-1 longest shot on the board, who led throughout to
upset 4-5 favorite Super Ninety Nine.
Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, Really Mr Greely boosted Baffert's already-record number of Prevue wins to six, and also provided a hearty welcome to the Southern California jockey colony for Julien Leparoux.
Moreover, Really Mr Greely became the first stakes winner for freshman sire Horse Greeley, himself a prominent juvenile of 2006.
On paper, Really Mr Greely had lesser qualifications than his stablemates. He had been beaten by Z Big Apple in his October 20 debut at Santa Anita, where he was a troubled fourth. Perhaps more tellingly, Really Mr Greely was then dropped in for a tag, albeit in a pricey $100,000 maiden claimer at the same venue on November 4, where he romped by 7 1/2 lengths.
Those credentials didn't appear to stack up against Baffert's leading pair. Flashy debut winner Super Ninety Nine had attracted plenty of buzz for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, only to be scratched after getting cast in his stall. Shakin It Up, runner-up to Super Ninety Nine in their mutual premiere, came right back to win impressively, and accordingly was dispatched as the 2-1 second choice in the Prevue.
Neither, however, could catch Really Mr Greely. Breaking alertly, the dark bay took comfortable command through an opening quarter in :22 3/5, and got away with an uncontested half in :46 1/5. Z Big Apple was his nearest pursuer until the lone non-Baffert runner, Peter Miller's filly Heir Kitty, moved up nearing the final turn. Super Ninety Nine was a couple of lengths farther back, and Shakin It Up was content to trail.
Swinging into the stretch, Really Mr Greely kept on motoring and began to inch away from the early stalkers through six furlongs in 1:10 1/5. Super Ninety Nine commenced a move, and gradually reduced the gap, but not well enough to peg back the winner.
Really Mr Greely held on by a half-length in a final time of 1:22 4/5 for seven furlongs over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track and fueled mutuels of $24.60, $7.20 and $2.80.
"He broke sharp," Leparoux said. "I wanted to be on the lead. He relaxed well and left me alone, which was beautiful, and when I asked him to go he answered nice. At the three-eighths pole, I felt they were coming at me, so I asked him to start going, and he never really stopped."
"No excuses," jockey Rafael Bejarano said of Super Ninety Nine. "He ran well and everybody (from Baffert's barn) ran well. We knew they all had a chance."
Super Ninety Nine barely salvaged second by a neck from the fast-finishing Shakin It Up, who was short of room in midstretch, forced to alter course, and made good late progress.
"I was in traffic throughout the race," jockey Martin Garcia said of Shakin It Up, whom Pegram also co-owns with Dennis Cardoza. "I think he's a really good horse."
"When you have that many horses in the same race," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said, "all you can do is tell the jockeys to stay out of each other's way. And Julien did the best of staying out of the way.
"I knew he (Really Mr Greely) was fast, but you never know until they break. All four of them are good horses."
"In the (2002) Del Mar Futurity (then a Grade 2) we ran five," Barnes recalled. "We won it with a horse called Icecoldbeeratreds. We were first, second, third, fourth and sixth."
Z Big Apple checked in another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth, followed by Heir Kitty.
Bred by David Richardson, Mike Chipman and Michael Hernon in Kentucky, Really Mr Greely was sold twice at OBS, bringing $13,000 as an August yearling before going for $40,000 this past April as a two-year-old in training. He has now earned $85,620 from his 3-2-0-0 line.
Really Mr Greely is the first registered foal from the Forest Camp mare Mattie Camp, who won her only two career starts. She hails from the family of Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and Grade 1 star City Zip, both prominent sires.
The Prevue typically produces prospects for Hollywood's Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, so the principals could get a rematch over 1 1/16 miles on December 15.