Idle since June 22, and the longest shot in the seven-horse field, Sahara Sky
and Joe Talamo made short work of their rivals in winning
Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita,
cruising home from off the pace in a rapid 1:07.73 while prevailing by
one length over 5-2 second choice Private Zone and Martin Pedroza.
“He ran unbelievable,” said Talamo. “That was actually the
closest he’s ever run. I thought he was going to be 10 lengths further
back than he was. He broke sharply, he put me right there, and I still
had a lot of horse when I called on him.”
As expected, Comma to the Top, with Edwin Maldonado up, and
Private Zone engaged early, setting fractions of 21.50, 43.61 and 55.50.
“It was like having a Quarter Horse in there trying to burn me
out (referring to Comma to the Top). My horse never could relax, he
just kept seeing the other horse. He wanted to go after him and I
didn’t want to choke him back, it’s only six furlongs.
“He never stopped, my horse was always running, even when the other horse (Sahara Sky) ran by him, he was still running.”
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Sahara Sky, a 5-year-old Florida-bred horse by Pleasant Tap, paid $45.20, $14.40 and $5.00.
A first-out maiden $20,000 claiming winner on Nov. 26, 2010 at
Delta Downs in Louisiana, Sahara’s Sky’s most recent win came with
Talamo aboard on May 19, 2012, in a second condition allowance race at
Betfair Hollywood Park. The Palos Verdes was his first foray into
graded stakes competition.
“We both thought that the two speed horses would hook up and
maybe make a good pace for us,” said Hollendorfer in reference to his
pre-game consultation with Talamo. “That’s the key to winning a race
like this. We had to have a little pace in front of us for that
particular kind of horse, so we got lucky today and he came through for
The winner’s share of $90,000 padded Sahara Sky’s bankroll to
$236,680 as he improved his record to 13-5-2-4. He’s owned by
Hollendorfer and Kim Lloyd’s Sweetwater Stable.
Private Zone, who finished a half-length in front of 5-2 favorite Justin Phillip and Rafael Bejarano, paid $4.40 and $3.00.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Justin Phillip had trained well since
running a close fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3,
and had a pace scenario that should have been to his liking in the Palos
“The pace was good for me and I was four lengths behind from the
speed,” said Bejarano. “When he came running in the stretch, he didn’t
show me what I expected.”
Justin Phillip paid $2.80 to show and finished 2 ½ lengths clear of Comma to the Top.