06/03/2012 8:28PM

Hollywood: Nonios outruns Liaison in Affirmed Handicap

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Benoit & Associates
Martin Pedroza guided Nonios through tight quarters in the stretch en route to victory in the Grade 3 Affirmed.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The return of Holy Candy and Liaision was overshadowed by the winning stakes debut of Nonios in Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Making his first start outside away from Golden Gate Fields, Nonios ($33.80) had an ideal trip in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds, closing between horses in early stretch to win by a half-length over even-money Liaison.

The Affirmed was Liaison’s first start since a sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Holy Candy finished third in the Affirmed, 1 1/4 lengths behind Liaison. Holy Candy was fourth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Nonios ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.99. Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Nonios, a colt by Pleasantly Perfect, was third on the backstretch, tracking Gun Boat. Entering the stretch, Pedroza guided Nonios between Gun Boat and Unusual Heatwave. Nonios was a half-length behind Unusual Heatwave with a furlong remaining, took the lead, and held off a threat from Liaison.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer praised Pedroza’s ride, and the way the veteran jockey found space between rivals in early stretch.

“I got worried when it looked like there was nowhere to go,” Hollendorfer said. “He got lucky and got through the seam.”

Liaison's jockey Rafael Bejarano thought in the stretch that he might be on the winner, but realized in the final furlong that Nonios was a danger.

“When I came into the stretch, I saw (Nonios) and I thought he had a lot of horse,” Bejarano said. “I tried to get the first jump, but (Nonios) passed me. I had no excuse.”

Unusual Heatwave finished fourth, followed by Blingo and Gun Boat.

Nonios races for Green Smith, Jr., and has won 3 of 4 starts and $99,000. The colt was purchased for $73,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ sale of 2-year-olds in training in April 2011.