ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 2, 2014)–One of three runners trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, longshot Wild Dude rallied late to beat 1-2 favorite Secret Circle by a neck in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes, getting six furlongs in 1:08.09.
As expected, the Bob Baffert-trained Secret Circle, who broke from the four post with Martin Garcia and was making his first start since winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 2, showed good speed away from the gate and was pressured at the rail by another Hollendorfer runner, Moonshine Bay, who broke from the outside post in a field of five with Gary Stevens.
Moonshine Bay was lapped on Secret Circle throughout and the two of them carved out splits of 21.95, 44.27 and 55.97. Passing the sixteenth pole, Secret Circle shook loose of Moonshine Bay and opened up a half length advantage with a hundred yards to run, only to be overtaken in the shadow of the wire by the winner. Next to last turning for home, Wild Dude switched off the rail late and surged wide-out right on the money with leading rider Rafael Bejarano.
“I knew with three horses in the race for Mr. Hollendorfer, I knew Gary (Stevens) was going to send Moonshine Bay to put a little pressure on the favorite,” said Bejarano, who was able to angle off the rail just as Secret Circle made the lead. “I saved ground around the turn and waited for the stretch. I just had to wait for the right moment, the right time.
“My horse loves coming from behind so the only change was I didn’t want to leave too much for him to do at the end so I kept him a little closer today.”
For his part, Hollendorfer, who is head and head with Baffert this winter, downplayed any prospect of a rivalry between the two Hall of Fame conditioners.
“It’s not a rivalry,” said Hollendorfer. “Actually, I’m a fan of a lot of the good trainers down here and I’m one of Bob’s fans…Our horse (Wild Dude) got lucky to get out of the one (path) and that’s why we got the win. I just told (Bejarano) to be where he wanted to be comfortable. We knew the horse had some tactical speed…Gary wouldn’t have gone quite so hard if (his) horse didn’t break as good as he did, but he was right out there…”
Owned by Hollendorfer and Green B. Smith, Jr., Wild Dude was off at 8-1 and paid $19.20, $5.00 and $3.20.
A lightly raced 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by Wildcat Heir, Wild Dude was making his eighth career start–and his first try in stakes competition. He picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $265,220. The Palos Verdes was his third win in-a-row and his fourth career victory.
Secret Circle, who was favored for the ninth time in his 10-race career, finished a length in front of Moonshine Bay and paid $2.10 and $2.10.
“He (Secret Circle) was down on the inside after he passed Moonshine Bay and I don’t think Martin ever saw the winner coming once he put that other horse away,” said Baffert. “He thought he had it won. He ran well off the layoff, he just got beat. He ran a good race. I don’t think he ever saw that other horse.”
The longest shot in the field at 16-1, Moonshine Bay finished third, 2 ¼ lengths in front of Majestic Stride and paid $3.60 to show.
Hollendorfer’s Sahara Sky, who won last year’s Palos Verdes and had been idle since winning the Grade I Met Mile on May 27, lagged early as expected but didn’t fire, finishing last with Corey Nakatani.
“I wish I had an excuse,” said Nakatani. “I was riding him, but we couldn’t make up any ground.”
Racing will resume at Santa Anita on Thursday, with first post time at 1 p.m.