VERNON O. UNDERWOOD S. | PURSE: $100,000 | GRADE 3 | 3-YEAR-OLDS-AND-UP | 6 FURLONGS
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pacific Ocean, making his first start in Southern California, took the lead right out of the gate and never looked back, posting a front-running victory on Saturday at Hollywood Park in the Grade 3, $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes, a race marred by the postrace death of Irrefutable.
Irrefutable, who finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Pacific Ocean in second, collapsed and died in front of the grandstand when he was returned to be unsaddled with what track veterinarians reported was likely a sudden cardiac event.
Irrefutable, 5, was ninth and last in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in his prior start, and before that was second to Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Amazombie in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita's fall meeting. The Underwood was his 13th start. He won four times.
Pacific Ocean ($16.80), with Joel Rosario up, completed six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:08.48, the fastest six-furlong time of the year at Hollywood Park. He broke from the rail and set swift fractions of 21.52 seconds for a quarter-mile and 43.78 seconds for a half-mile.
M One Rifle was a half-length behind Irrefutable in third. The normally fleet Euroears, the 8-5 favorite, rallied for fourth in the nine-horse field after being reserved in the early going.
Quiet Invader, Carbonite, Canonize, Shediak, and Comma to the Top completed the finish, in that order.
Pacific Ocean was purchased privately over the summer by Dennis Narlinger's JMJ Racing Stables from trainer Wayne Catalano, and was turned over to trainer Mike Mitchell. The Underwood was only his sixth lifetime start, his first since July, and his first on a surface other than Polytrack.
"Mike trained for us a long time ago," said Narlinger, who lives in Southern California. "We wanted to have horses out here again."
Right now, Narlinger said, he has "all of four" horses with Mitchell.
"But that's gonna change," Mitchell replied.
Pacific Ocean, a gelding by Ghostzapper, has won 4 times in 6 starts. In his only previous graded stakes attempt, he was second in the Hanshin Handicap at Arlington in May.