Summer Exclusive, the 4-5 favorite, edged pacesetter Sacred Ovation after a stretch long battle to win the $73,600 Harry Henson Stakes Thursday, opening day of Betfair Hollywood Park’s Spring/Summer meet.
Cutting back in distance after finishing far back in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby 19 days earlier, Summer Exclusive prevailed by a head in his turf debut for trainer Peter Miller.
Outrun early under jockey Garrett Gomez, the 3-year-old Exclusive Quality colt out of the Wild Rush mare Summer Dream angled to the inside to save ground after breaking from the outside in the field of six, came outside for room in the stretch and was able to wear down the tenacious 5-2 second choice.
The win was the second in three starts for Summer Exclusive, who is owned by a partnership that includes Chandler, Fink, Gencarella, Trzos, Topol and Altamira Racing Stable, and increased his earnings to $77,860. The Florida bred completed the six furlongs in 1:08.96.
It was the second Henson victory in five years for Miller, who also won with Backbackbackgone in 2009. The win was also the second in the race named for the legendary Hollywood Park announcer (1959-1982) for Gomez, who had scored with Rocky Bar in 2001.
Summer Exclusive returned $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Sacred Ovation, who was claimed away from Miller for $16,000 by trainer Art Sherman in February, paid $2.80 and $2.20. The Congrats gelding, who was ridden by Joe Steiner, finished 2 ¾ lengths in front of 5-1 third choice Colburn. The show price on Colburn was $2.80. My Jealous, No Contingency and Meringue Pie completed the order of finish.
“I had a dream trip, really,’’ said Gomez. “(Miller) and I talked a little before the race and it ended up just like we thought.
“I ended up in an ideal spot. They weren’t flying, but there were four of them across the track and it was just a matter of waiting to see who was going to be the first one to move forward and that I was going to follow.
“Finally, I decided to follow (Sacred Ovation) because it looked like he was traveling the best. I slid up inside, came around and I thought I could go and get him anytime I want. I had to work a little harder than I expected.’’
The second winningest trainer in Betfair Hollywood Park history, Mike Mitchell celebrated his 65th birthday with a victory, taking the meet opener with 2-1 favorite East Sky. The win was the 892nd locally for Mitchell. The late Bobby Frankel leads with 952 victories.
One race later, Pay the Debt, a California bred daughter of Awesome Gambler, scored a 19-1 upset in the first 2-year-old race of 2013 in Southern California.
Owned by Pat Abrams, Keith Moore and trainer Gary Sherlock, Pay the Debt won by two lengths under jockey Jorge Carreno and completed the 4 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 52.74 seconds.