In a thrilling 10th renewal of the American Oaks
– Presented by American Airlines - in which the first five 3-year-old fillies
were separated by less than one length, Cambina and Neried finished in a dead
heat for the top prize in the $250,000 race Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Two races later, there was almost another dead heat when nine
fillies and mares got together in the $200,000 A Gleam Handicap. This time, the
photo finish camera was able – by the slimmest of noses - to separate winner
Irish Gypsy and lukewarm favorite Ultra Blend.
On the lead virtually throughout under jockey Joe Talamo,
Nereid was successful in her stakes debut while a troubled Cambina’s fast
finish led to her third graded victory – first in a Grade I – in 2011. The
final time for the 1 ¼ miles on turf was 2:01.46.
The dead heat was the first in a Grade I at Hollywood Park
since the Richard Mandella-trained pair of Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest
finished on even terms in the Beverly Hills Handicap June 30, 1990. The most
recent stakes dead heat at the track was Surya and Tout Charmant in the Grade
II Dahlia Handicap Dec. 21, 2002.
The unusual finish also enabled Martin Garcia and John
Shirreffs to make a little American Oaks history. Garcia joined Desormeaux as
the only jockey to win the race twice while Shirreffs became the second trainer
to double, matching Todd Pletcher. Garcia, who rode Cambina, and Shirreffs, who
trains Nereid, combined to win with Harmonious in 2010.
The victory was the third over the Hollywood Park grass for
Nereid, whose only defeat came when she finished second behind Zazu in her debut
going 6 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track last Oct. 15.
Owned by Eric Kronfeld, the daughter of Rock Hard Ten and
the Belong to Me mare Dowry increased her bankroll to $168,800. She was game
along the inside when challenged after opening a two length lead with an eighth
of a mile to run.
Last for well over half the race, Cambina had to steady off
heels in midstretch when rallying between horses, yet was able to get up for
her fourth win in seven starts in the United States.
Owned by a partnership that includes Alan Bilich, Jason
Cline and George Schmitt and trained by Jeff Bonde, the Irish bred daughter of
Hawk Wing and the Peintre Celebre mare Await is 6-for-12 lifetime with earnings
of $370,426. She won twice in five starts in her native country before being
purchased by her current connections.
Nereid, the 9-2 fourth choice, paid $5.40, $5 and $3.20.
Cambina, who was the 7-2 third choice, returned $4.60, $3.80 and $3.40.
Shirreffs’ other entrant, Star Billing, beaten by a head,
returned $3.40 to show. Entrustment, the second longest shot in the cast at
19-1, was a head back in fourth and a half-length in front of 13-10 favorite
Bizzy Caroline. The only filly not involved at the wire was 27-1 shot Love
Theway Youare. She wound up 9 ¼ lengths behind Bizzy Caroline.
“That was only her fourth start and first time against
stakes winners,’’ said Talamo. “She ran second to Zazu first time out on
(Cushion Track last Oct. 15), she handles the turf, long. She can do anything.
She didn’t even start running today until she got to the sixteenth pole. When
she felt them coming, she really kicked on. She’s got a very, very bright
Garcia said he was fortunate he didn’t fall when he ran into
trouble in the stretch. “I don’t know who came in or out, but I had to completely
pull her up,’’ he said. “I rode her with so much confidence. I know she can
really finish, that’s the way she likes to run.’’
Although Shirreffs didn’t indicate any future plans for
either of his runners, Bonde said Cambina could return in the $250,000 Del Mar
Oaks, a Grade I, Aug. 20.