04/26/2013 4:41PM

Hollywood Park notes: Gomez, off to hot start, headed to Kentucky

Barbara D. Livingston
Beholder, under Garrett Gomez, wins the Las Virgenes Stakes

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Garrett Gomez left California on Thursday evening for a week of riding in Kentucky, fresh off an ideal start on the opening day of the Betfair Hollywood Park meeting.

Gomez rode two winners from six mounts on Thursday, including Summer Exclusive in the $73,600 Harry Henson Stakes for 3-year-old turf sprinters.

Next week, Gomez has big mounts in several top races at Churchill Downs, notably Beholder in the Kentucky Oaks and Vyjack in the Kentucky Derby.

“I’m hoping for some good luck,” Gomez said.

Gomez started Thursday morning at Santa Anita, working Beholder over seven furlongs in her final major exercise before the Kentucky Oaks on May 3. Gomez is the regular rider of Beholder, who was the champion 2-year-old filly of 2012 and won two Grade 1 races earlier this year at Santa Anita – the Las Virgenes Stakes on March 2 and the Santa Anita Oaks on March 6.

Gomez has ridden the speedy Beholder in all eight of her career starts, which includes five wins and earnings of $1,575,000. While Beholder has worked behind a stablemate in recent weeks to make her comfortable behind runners, she could be a factor on the lead in the Kentucky Oaks over 1 1/8 miles.

“Her weapon is speed,” Gomez said. “She’s fast and we don’t want to take that from her.

“She’s such a sweetheart and tries hard. I’m excited. She’s fit.”

Gomez is seeking his first win in the Kentucky Derby, and will do so on Vyjack, a colt he has never ridden.

Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Vyjack has won 4 of 5 starts and $542,200 in New York. Vyjack was third in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6, losing by a length to expected Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano.

“I’m learning about him now,” Gomez said. “He’s been impressive and he’s done nothing wrong.”

Gomez, 41, is winless with nine Derby mounts. A second aboard Pioneerof the Nile in 2009 is his best finish.

Summer Exclusive gets there

Summer Exclusive won his first stakes in his third career start in the Harry Henson Stakes, the opening day feature of the spring-summer meeting.

Summer Exclusive needed the entire stretch to catch pacesetter Secret Ovation in the final strides of the six-furlong turf race. Summer Exclusive ($3.60) ran six furlongs on turf in 1:08.96, winning by a head.

Sacred Ovation finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of Colburn in the field of six.

Gomez had Summer Exclusive in fifth on the backstretch, moved to the rail on the turn, and closed well to reach the front just in time.

“I had a dream trip,” Gomez said. “When I left there I ended up in the ideal spot. It was a matter of waiting to see which one would move first and which one I would follow.

“I thought I could go get him anytime I wanted. I had to work for it a little more than I thought.”

Trained by Peter Miller for a partnership, Summer Exclusive has won 2 of 3 starts and $77,860. After beating maidens in his debut on March 2, Summer Exclusive was seventh of eight in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

Miller said that Summer Exclusive is likely to stay in one-turn races for coming starts.

“He got it done,” Miller said. “He looks like a one-turn horse to me.”

Pay the Debt pays off

Pay the Debt became the first 2-year-old winner of the year in Southern California on Thursday with a victory in a maiden race for California-bred fillies over 4 1/2 furlongs. The win promptly earned Pay the Debt a mini-vacation.

Trainer and co-owner Gary Sherlock said that Pay the Debt will be pointed for the $100,000 Cinderella Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on June 15, the first stakes for the division this year.

Thursday, Pay the Debt ($41.20) was second to Ninnavee for the first three furlongs and took the lead in the final furlong before winning by two lengths over Harlington’s Rose, in 52.74 seconds. Ninnavee faded to finish third.

“I expected her to run well,” Sherlock said of Pay the Debt. “You know how 2-year-olds are – you put them in the gate and find out.

“She won’t run until the Cinderella.”

By Awesome Gambler, Pay the Debt is co-owned by Pat Abrams and Keith Moore.

Demonic sidelined

Demonic, a maiden race winner at Santa Anita in January who was considered for Saturday’s Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs, will be sidelined for 60 days with a hairline fracture in a foot, trainer John Sadler said on Friday.

The injury was diagnosed earlier this week to Demonic’s left hind foot and will keep the Benardini colt away from racing until the autumn.

◗ Tiz Flirtatious, winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita in March in her most recent start, worked five furlongs on turf in 1:03.80 on Friday. Trained by Marty Jones, Tiz Flirtatious is expected to start in the meeting’s first Grade 1 race – the $250,000 Gamely Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf on May 27.