TRIPLE BEND HANDICAP | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 7 FURLONGS
Centralinteligence earned his first stakes win in style on Saturday when running down pacesetter Comma to the Top in the Grade 1, $250,750 Triple Bend Handicap for a 3 ½-length victory on the wire. With jockey Victor Espinoza aboard, the Smarty Jones gelding finished seven furlongs over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track in 1:21 2/5.
"He was ready today. He was ready to go," Espinoza said. "The race set up very well, the way I wanted it. I just saved his energy for the end and let him run when it was time. Last time I rode him he broke a little bit slow, so I came and worked him out of the gate the other day prior to this race. He performed to our expectations."
Comma to the Top gunned straight for the front when the gates opened, leading through splits of :22 3/5, :45 and 1:09 while tracked by Cyclometer and Centralinteligence to his outside. Jimmy Creed, the 3-2 favorite, bided his time down on the rail before moving up to split Comma to the Top and Cyclometer on the backstretch, but couldn't maintain his momentum and backed up rounding the turn.
Comma to the Top led the way into the lane, but Centralinteligence rallied fast down the center of the track. The Ron Ellis trainee easily passed his rival to earn his first win since taking an allowance in March 2012 at Santa Anita.
Centralinteligence paid $19, $9.20 and $6.60 as the 8-1 fifth shot on the board. Comma to the Top held second by 1 ¼ lengths over a closing Morning Line down on the rail, while Drill filled out the superfecta another half-length back.
"He ran huge. Going seven furlongs, I got him to relax beautifully and got a good run out of him," said Comma to the Top's jockey, Edwin Maldonado.
"He ran his race. He's a super horse but he had no excuses, just got outrun," trainer Peter Miller said of Comma to the Top. "Seven-eighths is probably not his optimum distance. We'll cut him back to three-quarters in the [Grade 1, $300,00] Bing Crosby [on July 28 at Del Mar]. He likes that race track."
Morning Line was returning in this spot having not raced in more than a year. The six-year-old was last seen running fourth in the 2012 Californian.
"He ran a big race," jockey Julien Leparoux praised Morning Line. "He had been out for a year and came back to run this well. Everything is good with him. We just need to work with his mind a bit and I'm sure he'll go on to win many races.''
Rail Trip, Cyclometer, Camp Victory and Jimmy Creed completed the order under the wire after Tres Borrachos was withdrawn.
"He was taking a step forward went they went to break it, then he took a step back. [Jockey] Gary [Stevens] said he got hung up and got off bad. He came back missing his left front shoe," trainer Richard Mandella explained about Jimmy Creed's subpar performance.
Campaigned by Amerman Racing Stables LLC, Bongo Racing Stable, Gary Finder et al, Centralinteligence's previous best finishes against stakes company came as runner-up efforts in the past two editions of the Los Angeles Handicap. He was fourth in the Cool Frenchy to start his 2013 season on May 4, and actually made his four-year-old finale a sixth-place run in the Triple Bend 12 months ago.
"This is what we planned for all meet. It was nice that he put it all together for us on the right day," Ellis said. "He ran so poorly in this race last year [sixth of seven] because he came out of it with a chip in his knee, so he certainly had a good excuse. He had surgery and they actually pulled two chips out of his right front.
"We're going to skip [Del Mar]. This year we're going to point for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. This was our test today to show if he was good enough to keep pace with some good sprinters. You won't see him run again until the fall meet at Santa Anita. He deserves another chance at a mile, but I just don't see when he's going to get a chance to do it.
"Rail Trip ran fine," he added about his other entry in the race, who was returning off a runner-up effort in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. "These horses don't get allowance races to come back in anymore, so I've got to use the stakes schedule most of the time. We got a race under his belt. We'll see how he comes out of it. We'll probably point to the [Grade 2, $200,000] San Diego [Handicap on July 27 at Del Mar] with him."
Now owning a 4-3-1 mark from 12 starts, Centralinteligence doubled his career earnings to $308,921 with Saturday's score.
Bred in Kentucky by Patricia L. Chapman, the five-year-old gelding is the first stakes winner out of the unraced Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars and brought $90,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is a half-brother to multiple Grade 2-placed General Consensus as well as the stakes-placed duo Golden Rainbow and My Elusive Star.
Centralinteligence's granddam is Grade 3 heroine Lotta Dancing, who in addition to his dam also produced Grade 2 victor Fantasticat. His third dam is Grade 1 queen Lotka, who is a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner and duel classic-placed Stephan's Odyssey. Centralinteligence is descended from Broodmare of the Year Cosmah, who foaled three-time champion Tosmah and Grade 2-winning top sire Halo, and also counts in his female family 1974 Kentucky Derby star Cannonade.