ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 22, 2014)–Transferred from the hillside turf course to the main track earlier in the day, Sunday’s $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes proved to be low-hanging fruit for trainer Jeff Bonde’s Distinctiv Passion, as he dominated a field of four older horses in gate to wire fashion, winning by 4 ¼ lengths under Edwin Maldonado while negotiating 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.33.
One of the quickest horses on the grounds, the 5-year-old Florida-bred horse by With Distinction weathered a driving rain and shook off runner-up Seeking the Sherif early through fractions of 21.58, 44.23 and 1:07.85 on a track labeled wet fast.
With no show wagering, Distinctiv Passion was off at 3-5 and paid $3.20 and $2.40.
“We were hoping this race would come off the turf,” said Maldonado. “We were hoping it would rain and then a few horses would scratch out of it. All of our prayers were answered when all the speed did scratch, so it was a nice easy pace. He was all by himself today.”
Owned by Edward J. Brown, Jr., Alan Klein and Phillip Lebherz, Distinctiv Passion, who ran a disappointing fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade II, six furlong Palos Verdes Stakes Jan. 31, improved his record to 15-7-1-4. The winner’s share of $45,480 increased his earnings to $393,660.
“He’s a very versatile horse,” said Bonde when asked whether or not he had concerns about running on an off track. “I’m not opposed to running him anywhere. When he’s good, then I go. He’s one of my favorite horses.”
While Distinctiv Passion broke from post position two, Seeking the Sherif, with Kayla Sta up, broke from the outside and was second the entire trip, finishing 4 ¾ lengths in front of Chief Lion. Claimed out of a $62,500 win by trainer Gus Headley on Feb. 1, he was off at 5-2 and paid $2.60 to place.
Racing resumes at Santa Anita on Thursday, with first post time at 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.