Photo: Hollywood Park
Making his first start for trainer Jeff Mullins, Wilkinson pulled the
biggest surprise in the long history of the $150,000 American Handicap
Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Dismissed at 44-1 in the Grade II, the 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid
saved ground while racing close to the pace, angled outside approaching
the stretch, collared leader Liberian Freighter with less than an eighth
of a mile to run and easily withstood the late surge of 3-5 favorite
Owned by E.K. Gaylord II, Wilkinson was ridden by Martin Pedroza as
he earned the first graded win of his career. The margin of victory was 1
Well-traveled when in the barn of Neil Howard, the dark bay colt out
of the Afternoon Deelites mare Tasha’s Delight arrived in California
having lost six in a row.
He had finished on the board twice during that period in two graded
races – including a third in the Grade I Jamaica Handicap last Oct. 8 at
Belmont Park – but had not been better than fifth in his first three
outings of 2012.
Completing the mile on turf in 1:33.37, Wilkinson paid $90.60,
$18.20 and $8.20. The previous highest win price in the American was
Takarian, who returned $64.20 in 1999 when scoring the first of his two
victories in a race that has been contested 73 times.
Now 5-for-18 lifetime, Wilkinson, who has competed at seven different tracks in five states, increased his earnings to $336,994.
Besides Belmont Park and Betfair Hollywood Park, the Kentucky bred
has raced at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Fair Grounds and
“I only got the horse five days ago, so all the credit has to go to
Neil Howard,’’ said Mullins after his first American victory. “I trained
(Tasha’s Delight) and she always tried hard. The trip was kind of what
“(Gaylord) told me the horse needs to be close up and out of
trouble. We let Marty know that and he did it perfectly. The first thing
you notice about him is he’s a handsome horse. He does everything in
the morning and loves his job.
Mullins added Wilkinson will be aimed for the $300,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile June 30.
The win was also the first in the race for Pedroza and the veteran
rider was quick to credit what he was told in the saddling paddock.
“In my handicapping it looked like he wanted to make one run,’’ said
Pedroza. “When I came out to get instructions, everything changed. Jeff
told me to warm him up without a pony and get him to feel loose and
“He told me to send him leaving there and sit behind the first
flight. I just fell right into a perfect trip. If I had done what I
wanted to do, sit and make one run, I probably wouldn’t have won.
Believe me, my plan was different.’’
The loss was the second in a row for Mr. Commons, who paid $2.40 and
$2.10, as the odds-on choice. He was also the runner-up when 4-5 in the
Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 3 at Santa Anita.
“I thought he ran really well from the 10 post,’’ said Hall of Fame
jockey Mike Smith, referring to Mr. Commons’ draw. “You’d like to win
it, but he’ll get a lot out of this race and move forward.
A five-time winner over the Betfair Hollywood Park grass, Liberian
Freighter put away pace rival and 4-1 second choice Compari entering the
stretch, but weakened a bit late in his first start since he trailed in
the Grade I Shoemaker Mile last July 2. The show price on the
California bred gelding, who finished a half-length behind Mr. Commons,
Compari wound up fourth and he was followed by Mobilized, Tigah,
Calimonco, Great Warrior and Soul Candy. Barney Rebel and Venomous were
scratched earlier in the day.
Siempre Mio, who was scheduled to make his first start for new
owners – Los Angeles Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol – was
scratched from Saturday’s sixth race by trainer Doug O’Neill.
The 4-year-old gelding, who had drawn the inside post in the $54,000
allowance, was “coughing,’’ according to O’Neill, so the decision was
made to scratch.
Bryant and Gasol each purchased a 25% interest at a Lakers
Foundation charity auction April 24. The California bred is also owned
by Mark Verge’s Westsiderentals.com and Chris Quinn.
During The Inside Scoop, the weekly paddock show at Betfair
Hollywood Park hosted by Kurt Hoover, O’Neill indicated Siempre Mio, who
has two wins in five starts, could be back in action within two weeks.