AMERICAN HANDICAP | PURSE: $150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | ONE-MILE (TURF)
Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino's Obviously was expected to face a fair amount of pace pressure in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,250 American Handicap at Hollywood Park. But as it turned out, the 2-5 favorite easily zoomed to the front, and the race was effectively over.
Third to Horse of the Year Wise Dan and champion Animal Kingdom in last November's Breeders' Cup Mile -- his only loss at this distance -- Obviously didn't leave the gate particularly fast on Saturday, but he recovered in quick order. The Mike Mitchell charge was already 1 1/2 lengths on top through a sensible opening quarter in :23 1/5, as the other speed, Racing Aptitude and Chosen Miracle, sat back in second and third.
Obviously maintained his margin over Racing Aptitude through a half in :46. Barocci moved up into the second spot on the far turn, as Obviously clocked six furlongs in 1:09 2/5, but the front runner was about to deliver the coup de grace.
By throwing in a dazzling seventh furlong in :11 2/5, Obviously roared clear in midstretch. The Irish-bred gelding was much the best by 2 1/2 lengths while finishing the firm-turf mile in 1:32 4/5, the fastest running of the American since it was shortened to this distance in 2011.
"He just did it so easy," winning rider Joe Talamo marveled. "Besides California Flag sprinting, I've never ridden a horse like this going long. He just lopes along like that.
"With him going (:46 for the half) today, I almost made the sign of the cross. That's like :47 4/5 for any other horse. The main hope is to try to get him back to the Breeders' Cup.
"At the three-eighths pole I just kind of gave him his head and hopefully tried to steal the race from there. He's a jockey's dream. You just sit on him and he does the rest. He's just a tremendous horse."
The American was truly a land of opportunity for immigrants. Lucayan, last year's French Two Thousand Guineas winner, uncorked a strong late run to deprive Barocci of second by a neck. The French-bred Lucayan was making a fine U.S. debut for Neil Drysdale, while the Japanese-bred Barocci was rounding out the all-import trifecta.
Lucayan's connections were delighted with his effort.
"It looks like we'll have some fun with this horse," Drysdale said. "Obviously at a mile, the winner would be real difficult to beat. We'll see what our options are with him, but I was very pleased with his first start in the United States."
"He ran big," jockey Julien Leparoux said. "That was a good first race in the country. The winner is a good horse. He's probably going to be able to run a little farther, too."
Victor Espinoza, who rode Barocci, wished that one of the projected pace rivals had made it a little harder for Obviously.
"I thought somebody was going to go out with the winner," Espinoza said. "(A :23 1/5 opening quarter) really isn't that fast for these kind of horses."
Drill checked in another 3 1/2 lengths back in fourth, trailed by Racing Aptitude and Chosen Miracle.
Obviously, who paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10, now sports a mark of 14-7-4-2, $668,347. The bay was initially trained by Peter Fahey in Ireland, where he raced three times, all at seven furlongs. Sixth after rearing up at the start of his career debut at Gowran last summer, he won his next pair, a maiden at Cork and a handicap over the Polytrack at Dundalk.
The smart prospect then sold for $217,635 at the 2011 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale and arrived in Southern California for 2012. After just missing in his American debut in a downhill sprint at Santa Anita, he scored narrowly over the same about 6 1/2-furlong course. Obviously placed in his ensuing three sprint attempts at Hollywood Park, most notably in the Cool Frenchy over the Cushion Track and in the Robert K. Kerlan Memorial on turf.
Mitchell subsequently stretched him out to a mile for an optional claimer at Del Mar, and Obviously was a revelation, romping by five lengths in near course-record time. That was the beginning of a three-race winning streak. Back over the same course and distance in the August 26 Del Mar Mile, he just held from Mr. Commons, and broke the course record by blitzing in 1:32. Obviously completed the hat trick in the October 6 Arroyo Seco Mile at Santa Anita in his start prior to the Breeders' Cup.
Reverting to a turf sprint for his comeback in the April 20 San Simeon at Santa Anita, Obviously set scorching fractions, and was still clear in midstretch, only to be collared by Chips All In in the final strides. He was back in his element at a mile, and second off the layoff, here.
"He's a good horse, he really is," Mitchell said. "He does things like this so easy. He had a nice tune-up under his belt and he went into this really good.
"The thing is when we first got him, my son-in-law (bloodstock agent Craig Rounsefell) picked him out and bought him. We were going to buy a different horse, but he kept saying there's this horse tomorrow. So I said, 'Let's go for that horse tomorrow.'
"When they picked him out, he was totally a sprinter. We thought we had a sprinter on our hands. But when we routed him, now all of a sudden, 'Wow!'
"We're going to keep him at a mile, take our time with him and go for the (Breeders' Cup Mile November 2 at Santa Anita) again. He'll have another race here (the Shoemaker Mile, on June 29)."
The son of sprint supremo Choisir gets some stamina from his dam, Leala, an unraced daughter of Montjeu. His second dam, the unraced Silver Hawk mare Silver Bubble, is a full sister to multiple Grade 1 star Hawkster, who set a new world record of 2:22 4/5 for 1 1/2 miles on turf; U.A.E. highweight older stayer Lightning Arrow; Group 1-placed French stakes victor Silver Kite; and French Group 3 queen Silver Lane, whose progeny include Japanese Grade 1 scorers Black Hawk and Pink Cameo.
Bred by Deidre Cogan in Ireland, Obviously was a bargain $2,578 yearling purchase at Goffs February.