11/25/2007 1:00AM

Daytona proves uncatchable

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif.-Daytona proved dangerous when he was allowed to lead throughout the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita last month. Jockey Mike Smith used the same tactics in Sunday’s $500,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park with a similar lethal effect.

Allowed to set a moderate pace, Daytona pulled clear of his rivals on the final turn and held off a late run from Medici Code to score a mild upset in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Daytona ($13.20) ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 1:59.75. The Hollywood Derby was the longest race of his 10-race career, which includes four wins and earnings of $461,390.

“He pounced on them on the turn and didn’t let them get a jump on him,” said winning trainer Dan Hendricks. “He’s a nice, honest horse that gets a route.”

Daytona beat a strong field that included the six-time stakes winner Nobiz Like Shobiz. Sent off as the even-money favorite, Nobiz Like Shobiz was as close as third on the final turn, but faded to finish eighth, 6 1/4 lengths behind Daytona.

“At the half-mile pole, I didn’t have a horse,” said jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Nobiz Like Shobiz.

Daytona set early factions of 24.32 and 48.14 seconds, leading by as much as 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch. Smith urged Daytona on the final turn and they led by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch. The margin was down to a half-length at the wire.

“I told him to be comfortable whether you’re first or third,” Hendricks said of his instructions to Smith.

Medici Code, the winner of the Del Mar Derby in September, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Bold Hawk, the winner of the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby last month.

Daytona began his career in England where he won a maiden race on the all-weather circuit. A gelding, Daytona joined Hendricks’s stable in the spring.

“We thought he was a quality horse that could fit in some big races,” Hendricks said. “You buy these horses from Europe and hope to get lucky. This worked out about 10 fold.”