By Art Wilson
Southern Calif. NewsGroup
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MIGHTY VASILIKA RALLIES TO WIN GRADE I, $500,000 GAMELY STAKES BY ONE LENGTH UNDER PRAT; TRAINED BY HOLLENDORFER, SHE GETS 1 1/8 MILES ON GRASS IN 1:48.07
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 27, 2019)– Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s brilliant 5-year-old mare, Vasilika, continued to make her connections proud since being claimed for $40,000 in February 2018 at Santa Anita when she won Monday’s $500,000 Grade I Gamely Stakes in her usual come-from-behind fashion.
Vasilika, a daughter of Skipshot, made it four victories in a row and 12 of 14 for her connections since the claim. The streak includes seven graded-stakes victories — two in Grade I events — and her latest came by one length over Rymska, a top-notch 5-year-old mare trained by Chad Brown.
“I can’t believe she makes those kind of stretch runs. She has a great big turn of foot, which most horses don’t have. She continues to do it,” Hollendorfer said after Vasilika rallied from sixth in the eight-horse field to win the 1 1/8-mile turf race, running the distance in 1:48.07 as the even-money favorite.
Hollendorfer, asked if Vasilika has exceeded expectations for her new owners, flashed his usual dry humor.
“That’s safe to say,” he said.
He didn’t offer any specific reasons why the ownership group, which includes Hollendorfer, reached in and claimed her.
“A lot of times people are just looking for a horse, and we probably were, too,” Hollendorfer said. “We had to shake a little bit for her, but we ended up getting her. A lot of luck involved here.”
Hollendorfer’s best claim ever?
“I think so, yeah. Probably so,” he said.
It’s been a tough year for Hollendorfer, who lost three of the 26 horses that have died at Santa Anita since Dec. 26. Battle of Midway, the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, was among the fatalities. He also lost Kochees, injured Saturday and then euthanized Sunday morning after surgery couldn’t save his life.
“It’s always good to have a win,” he said. “It picks everybody up, but we’re always thinking about our horses and we’re certainly pretty sad when they get hurt.”
Hollendorfer said there were no signs that Kochees would suffer a fatal injury in Saturday’s sixth race, a $10,000 claimer.
“We wouldn’t have led him over to run if we didn’t like him,” he said. “We thought he would run real well. We thought he would win.”
He’s confident his barn followed all safety protocols put in place by The Stronach Group before the race.
“In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that we’ve done every single thing properly with Kochees and all the rest of our horses, too,” Hollendorfer said.