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Breeders' Cup 2017

Surfcup Rides Wave on Gold Rush Day

The California Gold Rush, which was held for the 14th time Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, continues to be jockey Rafael Bejarano’s personal playground.

Fresh off a four win day Friday, Bejarano won three of the eight Gold Rush events – which are restricted to horses bred or sired in California – including the two richest races.

More than 2 ½ hours after winning the $245,000 Melair Stakes with the 3-year-old filly Doinghardtimeagain, Bejarano got the money with 3-year-old colt Surfcup in the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes.

Those wins – along with the half-length decision aboard 4-1 shot Kate’s Event in the $125,250 Tiznow – gave the Peruvian-born Bejarano 16 Gold Rush victories in the last five years. Overall, Bejarano has 19 wins, two behind Gold Rush leader Victor Espinoza.

With seven victories in the first three days of the Spring/Summer meet, Bejarano has moved closer to a significant milestone. He is 11 wins away from 3,000 in a career that began in his native country in 2001.

Always close to the slow pace set by 37-1 shot Bobo, Surfcup gained the lead while on the outside early in the stretch and went on to win by a half-length over Fighting Hussar. Tiz a Minister, the 11-10 favorite, was a non-threatening third after being far back for most of the 1 1/8 miles.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owner-breeder Donald Dizney, Surfcup earned his third win in six starts, but first on a surface other than turf. The son of Unusual Heat and the Runaway Groom mare Omi Princess pushed his earnings to $275,800. He paid $12, $6.60 and $3.20 as the 5-1 third choice while completing the distance in 1:50.80.

Able to save ground throughout – after some early trouble – while positioned just behind the pacesetters, Fighting Hussar, who was four lengths in front of Tiz a Minister at the finish, paid $7.20 and $3.20. Tiz a Minister returned $2.20 to show.

“He had never run on this track and I just tried to get him comfortable in the race,’’ said Bejarano of Surfcup. “He was real relaxed in the beginning and when (Fighting Hussar) came running at the end, my horse gave me a big kick.’’

The win was Baffert’s third in the Snow Chief, following Chief Planner (2003) and Da Stoops (2006), and Mike Marlow, his assistant trainer, said the fact Surfcup handled Cushion Track gives the stable some options.

“We always thought he likes turf,’’ said Marlow. “It was kind of a surprising race really. He’s definitely a two-turn horse.’’

A win by Bejarano in the Melair was certainly nothing new. The 1 ¼ length victory aboard Doinghardtimeagain, the 7-10 favorite, was his fourth in the race in six years.

Stretching out after a decisive victory in the Evening Jewel Stakes March 30 at Santa Anita, Doinghardtimeagain relaxed off the moderate splits set by Sweet Marini, moved in tandem while outside 4-1 shot Unusual Way around the turn, dispatched of that rival and took over from the stubborn pacesetter nearing the finish.

Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer – his first of three wins Saturday – for owner-breeders Debi and Tom Stull’s Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Doinghardtimeagain completed the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track in 1:43.55. She paid $3.40, $2.20 and $2.10.

A daughter of Ministers Wild Cat out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Silver Hawk Lady, Doinghardtimeagain has won four of eight. Worse than second only once, the dark bay has earned $483,770.

The victory was the first beyond seven furlongs for Doinghardtimeagain and kept her undefeated in three starts at Betfair Hollywood Park. She broke her maiden last Nov. 9 and won the inaugural Soviet Problem Stakes last Dec. 9 prior to the Melair.

“Very nice effort,’’ said Hollendorfer, who also teamed with Bejarano in a thrilling renewal of the Tiznow before scoring with jockey Corey Nakatani and 6-1 shot Curvy Cat –also for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds – in the $126,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes.

“(Doinghardtimeagain) was placed in a nice spot and was able to close down on (Sweet Marini). We had a good trip, we got lucky and won it.’’

Rebounding after a dismal performance in her first of the year and initial race for Baffert, Sweet Marini wound up two lengths clear of Unusual Way and paid $3.60 and $2.80. The show price on Unusual Way was $2.60.

Kate’s Event rallied widest of all to win in a race where the first four finishers were separated by less than one length.

Winning for the third time in five starts in 2013, Kate’s Event ran the 7 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:29.31. The third choice in a field of seven paid $10.40, $4.80 and $2.80.

Owned by breeder William H. Ziering, the 6-year-old Event of the Year horse out of the Mane Minister mare Nordidid has won six of 16 and banked $317,190.

“Everything worked out great,’’ said Bejarano. “When I saw my horse was relaxing so well, I just decided to wait. He came through between horses at the half-mile to the three-eighths and when I finally came around into the stretch, he really came running. I thought I was going to be third at the eighth pole, but he just kept coming.’’

Rock Me Baby, the 4-1 second choice, finished a half-length behind the winner after setting the pace and returned $5 and $4. A nose back in third was 14-1 outsider Planet Sunshine. His show price was $5.80.

Mel’s Game, the even money favorite, finished fourth, a nose behind Planet Sunshine after encountering traffic woes under jockey Julien Leparoux. The defeat was the first in 2013 for the son of Game Plan. The 4-year-old had gone 3-for-3 over conventional dirt during Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring meet.

“He had the one hole and he didn’t break as sharp as he usually does,’’ said Leparoux. “I tried to get up inside, but everyone kind of boxed me in. After that, I had to wait, wait, wait for room. He ran well with a tough trip.’’

In a B. Thoughtful weakened by the scratch of Teddy’s Promise, the 7-5 morning line favorite, Curvy Cat wore down pacesetter Ismene in the final sixteenth for her seventh career victory.

Returning to a synthetic surface after an off-the-board finish in the Irish O’Brien Stakes last month on turf at Santa Anita, Curvy Cat won by one length in 1:29.65 for the 7 ½ furlongs.

A 4-year-old Ministers Wild Cat filly out of the Distorted Humor mare Curvy Girl, Curvy Cat has banked $241,373 in 15 starts. She has been worse than third only once while racing in both Northern and Southern California. She paid $15.80, $7.80 and $4.

“In the beginning of the meet, I think it helps if a horse has been training here,’’ said Hollendorfer after his sixth Gold Rush victory. “Anytime I can win a race in Southern California I love it. It’s a little tougher here than in most places.

“When Teddy’s Promise was scratched, I think that bolstered everybody’s confidence a little bit because she was definitely the horse to beat. We’ll see about finding more spots for (Curvy Cat) here.’’

Ismene, who had a two-length lead with an eighth of a mile to run after being prompted for the first four furlongs by 71-1 outsider Melanistic, wound up 3 ¾ lengths in front of Dancingtothestars. The 2-1 favorite paid $4.40 and $2.80 while the show price on Dancingtothestars was $2.80.

A Grade I winner – the 2011 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita – for owner-breeders Ted and Judy Nichols, Teddy’s Promise was declared from the B. Thoughtful Saturday morning by trainer Ron Ellis. He said the 5-year-old Salt Lake mare had a “touch’’ of a bruise on her left front foot.

A winner of eight of 22, Teddy’s Promise is nominated to the $70,000-added Time To Leave Stakes, a five furlong contest over Cushion Track. She is the defending champion in a race scheduled for May 5.

“We’ll work on it this week and maybe we’ll be all right (for the Time to Leave),’’ said Ellis.

Hail Mary was the most decisive Gold Rush winner, romping by 9 ¾ lengths as the 3-10 favorite in the $70,500 Warren’s Thoroughbreds.

Leparoux rode the 3-year-old daughter of Old Topper for his father-in-law, trainer Mike Mitchell and owner-breeder Nick Alexander. The win was the second in four starts for Hail Mary.

In the male counterpart to the Warren’s Thoroughbred, Super Ability, the 2-1 favorite, won the $70,750 Grey Memo Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths.

Martin Garcia rode the 5-year-old Langfuhr gelding for Iconic Thoroughbreds LLC and breeder Harris Farms, Inc. and trainer Carla Gaines. Like Hail Mary, Super Ability has won two of four.

The two stakes races for maidens – the $60,750 NTRA and the $62,000 Alphabet Kisses – were won by jockey Tyler Baze, who also captured the seventh – a non Gold Rush race – with Mega Heat. Celebrity Status won the NTRA while Warren’s Veneda took the Alphabet Kisses.



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