07/16/2011 6:31PM

Hollywood Park: Dead heat in American Oaks

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Benoit & Associates
Nereid (rail), with Joe Talamo riding, is met by Cambina, Martin Garcia up, to her right as the two approach the wire in the American Oaks.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Cambina and Nereid finished in a dead heat for first in Saturday's $250,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, arriving at the finish simultaneously after journeys over 1 1/4 miles on turf that were much different than expected.

Cambina overcame traffic in the stretch that seemed to doom her chances, and then rallied in the final furlong to finish on even terms with Nereid, who set the pace. Star Billing, Nereid's stablemate, was expected to lead, but she stumbled at the start and Nereid inherited the role of front-runner.

Star Billing finished third in the field of six 3-year-old fillies, followed by Entrustment, Bizzy Caroline (the 6-5 favorite) and Love Theway Youare.

Cambina ($4.60) and Nereid ($5.40) were timed in 2:01.46. The Grade 1 American Oaks was the first stakes win for Nereid and the first win at that level for Cambina, who won three turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita earlier this year.

"It's always good to win," said Jeff Bonde, who trains Cambina for a partnership.

Nereid, ridden by Joe Talamo, set a modest pace of 24.89 and 48.16 seconds, leading by as much as 1 1/2 lengths on the backstretch over Bizzy Caroline, the winner of the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs last month. Talamo had Nereid on the inside in early stretch and the filly had a two-length lead over Bizzy Caroline with a furlong remaining. At that point, Cambina attempted to rally between Entrustment and Bizzy Caroline, but lacked space under jockey Martin Garcia.

Cambina trailed Nereid by 3 1/2 lengths passing the eighth pole, and overcame the trouble to close remarkably well under well under torrid right-handed whipping by Garcia.

"I was concerned when she got tightened up," Bonde said. "To her credit, she re-rallied. She's a game horse, and she has a good turn of foot."

Nereid and Star Billing are trained by John Shirreffs, who was not sure whether the leader had held on at the wire. The mirror that marks the finish line of turf races at Hollywood Park is more than 15 feet from the running paths in the middle of the course, making close finishes tough to judge.

"You worry that in the last two or three strides a horse is susceptible" to being caught, Shirreffs said. "You wonder where the turf course wire is."

Star Billing finished a head behind the first two finishers, but only a head in front of Entrustment. Jockey Joel Rosario said the start cost Star Billing.

"I thought I had a chance to win," Rosario said. She took a lot of time to get going. She stumbled a little bit at the start. I took my time and tried to get her to relax."
Cambina, an Irish-bred by Hawk Wing, has won 6 of 12 starts and $370,426. Nereid, owned by Eric Kronfeld, has won 3 of 4 starts and $168,800.

The American Oaks was worth $100,000 to each filly, and was the first dead heat in a Grade 1 race at Hollywood Park since Beautiful Melody and Reluctant Guest finished together in the 1990 Beverly Hills Handicap.