07/02/2012 1:22PM

Hollywood Park: Camp Victory's upset provides big boost to Mitchells

Shigeki Kikkawa
Camp Victory upsets the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park for trainer Mike Mitchell.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It took a few moments for the folks in the intensive care unit at USC Medical Center to figure out what all that cheering was about in one of the rooms Saturday afternoon.

Trainer Mike Mitchell, who underwent surgery for a brain tumor early Friday, was resting in his hospital room, with his wife Denise, and adult daughters McCall and Shea visiting. Mitchell may not have been able to attend the race, but no one could take racing out of the man, even a day after a serious operation.

Denise brought a computer to the hospital, and the family watched the Mitchell-trained Camp Victory rally through the stretch to win the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“It was supposed to be a quiet time in the ICU,” said Phil D’Amato, Mitchell’s assistant. “They were watching the race and cheering.

“Everyone was looking at them.”

What those observers saw in the hospital was a close-knit family celebrating a win at the wrong venue. Mitchell was admitted to the hospital on June 27 after experiencing prolonged bouts of fatigue. An MRI revealed the tumor. Doctors said it might be several days before they can determine whether the tumor is malignant or benign.

The all-time leading trainer at Del Mar, Mitchell, 64, was scheduled to be released from the hospital Monday. It was unclear how long Mitchell would rest at home before returning to the stable, but D’Amato does not think he will be away for too long.

“He’s in good spirits,” D’Amato said. “He’s already making out plans for a couple of horses.”

Part of those plans is to point Camp Victory to the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs on Aug. 26.

“We did that last year and we’ll do that again this year,” D’Amato said.

Camp Victory was third in the 2011 Pat O’Brien. A 5-year-old gelding, Camp Victory was claimed by Mitchell for $40,000 in February 2011 and has since earned $397,400 in 10 starts for the ownership team of Roger Featherston, Gordon Jacobsen, and Tom Miller.

The only time Camp Victory has not earned prize money since being claimed was in a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last fall. Camp Victory, by Forest Camp, has won 8 of 23 starts and $517,986.

“The horse always gives you what he has,” D’Amato said.

In Saturday’s Triple Bend, Camp Victory, 10-1, closed from fifth in the field of seven to win by 3 1/4 lengths over the multiple stakes winner and 9-10 favorite The Factor.

“That was just amazing,” Denise Mitchell told Hollywood Park publicity after the race. “We’re watching the race and saying, ‘No, way,’ when he was making that move.

“Mike knew he was in tough, but after the race, he said, ’10-1? Man.’ ”

The Triple Bend was Camp Victory’s first win in a Grade 1 and the first win in a race at that level for Mitchell since Jaycito won the Norfolk Stakes in October 2010.

Mitchell’s stable has performed well in recent stakes. Potesta won the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 23 in her stakes debut. Her next start will be the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 2.

On Sunday, the Mitchell-trained Obviously was second in the Robert Kerlan Handicap for turf sprinters.

Dhaamer, winner of the Round Table Handicap in May, will start in the $100,000 Sunset Handicap on July 15, closing day of the spring-summer meeting. Julien Leparoux, Shea Mitchell’s fiancée, has the mount.

By then, D’Amato is hoping to have Mitchell back at the barn. Late Sunday morning, D’Amato was focused on updating training charts and keeping the stable’s operation moving. The events of Saturday were behind him, but provided a much-needed boost at the end of a difficult week.

“It was good for the barn,” D’Amato said. “It was a storybook ending.”