Hollywood Park: Liaison saves Garcia's weekend in Mervyn LeRoy
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Liaison saved Saturday for jockey Martin Garcia.
As recently as late April, Garcia was hoping to gain a mount in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. When his intended ride, Govenor Charlie, was withdrawn last week and nothing else materialized in the days before entries were taken, Garcia wound up staying in California to ride Liaison in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Garcia made the most of the opportunity. He gave Liaison an ideal ride to win the Grade 2 race for older horses over 1 1/16 miles.
“I didn’t have good luck this year,” Garcia said of his Kentucky Derby hopes. “I ended up with nothing.”
The Mervyn LeRoy Handicap was the second consecutive stakes victory for Liaison. Garcia rode the 4-year-old colt to a victory in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita on March 31. Sixth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, Liaison won his fourth stakes in the Mervyn LeRoy. Liaison races for Arnold Zetcher and is trained by Bob Baffert, who had three winners at Hollywood Park on Saturday.
In the Mervyn LeRoy, Liaison ($7.80) was timed in 1:42.79 and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Kettle Corn.
Garcia had Liaison in a stalking position for the first six furlongs, tracking pacesetter Blueskiesnrainbows, who set a moderate pace of 24.25 and 47.52 seconds. Liaison moved into contention outside of Blueskiesnrainbows on the turn and took the lead in early stretch.
“He broke super fast and I waited behind the speed,” Garcia said. “When I asked him to go at the quarter pole, I tried to open up. He finished the job.”
Liaison was clear at the finish, although Kettle Corn closed well from last in a field of six to finish second. The Baffert-trained Guilt Trip, who won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes in February, was third, followed by Blueskiesnrainbows, Midnight Transfer and Vagabond Shoes.
Liaison has won 5 of 14 starts and $721,794. He won the Real Quiet Stakes and Grade 1 CashCall Futurity here in the fall of 2011, and has won 3 of 5 starts on Hollywood Park’s synthetic main track.
Comma to the Top takes Cool Frenchy
Earlier in the day, Comma to the Top won his fifth stakes in the last eight months and the eighth of his career in the $80,740 Cool Frenchy Stakes over five furlongs.
Comma to the Top ($6.40) had a relatively easy race, leading throughout. He led by a head early and pulled away from seven rivals to have an advantage of more than a length on the turn. Ridden by Edwin Maldonado, Comma to the Top led by 2 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Italian Rules.
“Speed is one of his best assets,” trainer Peter Miller said.
Ain’t No Other was third, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Comma to the Top ran five furlongs in 56.90 seconds.
A 5-year-old gelding by Bwana Charlie, Comma to the Top is owned by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara. In 2011, Comma to the Top finished last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby after racing near the front for the first six furlongs. He has raced primarily in sprints in the last two years.
Comma to the Top has won 13 of 30 starts and $1,233,406.
So happy to see Liaison doing superbly this year! I always loved this horse.
As Brad Free brought up earlier in the week, Comma to the Top and Liaison prove that there can be much racing, and much good racing, after the Kentucky Derby. Both Comma and Liaison ran off the board in their Derbys, with Comma running last, but here today was both horses winning stakes, ironically on Derby day. Comma to the Top has become an admirably consistent sprinter. He basically runs the same race each time, which against listed and grade 3 stakes horses is usually good enough for the win but typically good for only 3rd or 4th against grade 2 and 1 horses. The grade 3 LA Cap' at 6 furlongs over the Cushion Track later this month would appear to be the logical next objective. Liaison seems to have made the jump in development most expected him to make last year after a productive juvenile season. The difference for Liaison this year as compared to last year is that he has been flashing much better speed; Liaison could always finish decently, but last year he became a one run closer and he is simply not that strong of a finisher to find success at the graded level employing such a style. In his 2 stakes wins this year, Liaison has been much more tractable, and has used positional speed to keep the frontrunners within reach and to get the jump on the closers. I'm not sure Liason can be as effective at 10 furlongs, or if he can beat grade 1 competition(at any distance), but given how thin the older horse division is in California, Liaison is certainly a contender for a placing in the 3 remaining west coast grade 1s(Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, and Goodwood/Awesome Again). And he should be very tough in middle distance grade 2s and 3s like the Californian and San Diego.