Silentio was a winner in his Betfair Hollywood Park debut, edging Summer Front in the $250,500 Citation Handicap Friday, the first of five graded stakes over a three-day period during the annual Turf Festival.
Four weeks after finishing a close third behind 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan and Za Approval in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the 4-year-old Silent Name colt won the Grade II by the slimmest of noses over Summer Front, who was making his Southern California debut, with pacesetter Winning Prize three-quarters of a length back in third.
Trained by Gary Mandella for owner-breeders Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Silentio, the 3-2 favorite, won for the fourth time in 10 starts and completed the 1 1/16 miles over a course labeled good in 1:40.66.
Out of the A.P. Indy mare Listen, Silentio, who was ridden by Rafael Bejarano, increased his earnings to $626,960.
Worse than third only once in his career, the dark bay returned $5, $2.80 and $2.10.
The margin of victory matched the smallest in Citation history. Prior to Friday, the most recent nose winner of the race was Charge d’Affaires in 2000. Charge d’Affaires was trained by Christophe Clement, Summer Front’s conditioner.
Urged from his outside post to gain the advantage exiting the first turn, Winning Prize set solid fractions (23.15, 46.74 and 1:10.22 for six furlongs) under jockey Corey Nakatani, disposed of longshot Bio Pro into the stretch, but couldn’t quite stave off the top pair.
Silentio, whose first Grade II victory came in the Sir Beaufort last Dec. 26 at Santa Anita, split horses in the stretch as he rallied while Summer Front and jockey Joe Bravo circled wide.
“When they hit the wire together, I thought we got beat,’’ said Mandella. “I walked down dejected because if this horse gets beat an inch again after he got beat an inch (by Suggestive Boy) in the (Grade I) Kilroe Mile (last March 2 at Santa Anita), it was going to be pretty tough to take.
“When Summer Front came to him I thought he was going to go right by, but when Silentio switched to his right lead he kind of found his rhythm again.’’
A double Grade III winner earlier this year at Calder and Monmouth Park, Summer Front paid $3.40 and $2.40 as the 2-1 third choice. The show price on Winning Prize, the 2-1 second choice, was $2.40.
“It’s tough to swallow getting beat like that,’’ said Bravo. “He was so comfortable and relaxed and I was ecstatic on the first turn. With the way the pace was going, he was so comfortable underneath me, so nice.’’
Big Bane Theory was fourth, 1 ¼ lengths behind Winning Prize, and he was followed by Bio Pro, My Best Brother and Bright Thought. He Be Fire N Ice was scratched Thursday.
The fourth race Friday was named in honor of Harry Henson, the legendary track announcer who called races at Hollywood Park from 1959-1982.
Naming a race commemorating Henson is nothing new at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Since 1991, the Harry Henson Stakes – formerly the Debonair – has been a fixture on the Spring/Summer calendar.
Frank Mirahmadi, regular track announcer at, among other venues, Oaklawn Park, and a noted impressionist, called Friday’s race in the style of Henson, who was 78 when he died in June, 1992.
Glad’s Gals, the 8-5 favorite, rolled to a 12 ¼-length length victory under apprentice jockey Gonzalo Nicolas in the $20,000 claimer for maiden fillies and mares.
Racing will resume Saturday. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Track gates will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcast.
The Turf Festival continues with a pair of Grade III races for 2-year-olds – the $100,000 Generous and the $100,000 Miesque, which is restricted to fillies. Both are at one mile. The Generous is the second of 10 races while the Miesque goes as the fourth.
The Pick Six will again feature a guaranteed Pick Six pool of $150,000. If the pool reaches $200,000, there will be $1 food and drink Happy Hour specials at Whittingham’s Pub and Betfair Players’ Lounge.
Additionally, if there is a single perfect ticket in the Pick Six – purchased either on track or through Television Games Network (TVG) – the holder of the ticket will receive a bonus – a new Prius courtesy of Toyota of Orange.