11/21/2012 1:06PM

Hollywood Park: Ultimate Eagle out to run and gun as usual in Citation

Benoit & Associates
Ultimate Eagle returns from a layoff of more than eight months in the Citation.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Perhaps it is fitting that Ultimate Eagle drew the rail for Friday’s $250,000 Citation Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park.

There is no suspense regarding race tactics for the speedy 4-year-old.

Ultimate Eagle will take his typical place at the front, a target for the other seven runners, but also a horse capable of stealing the Grade 2 race over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

“You know he’s going to jump out of there,” trainer Mike Pender said.

“He trains like he wants to get it on.”

The winner of three graded stakes from October 2011 to February of this year, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last November, Ultimate Eagle returns from a layoff of more than eight months in the Citation.

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He was the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap in March, finishing 10th after a tough speed duel. A month later, Ultimate Eagle was turned out.

In the Citation, Ultimate Eagle is unlikely to face significant pressure for the lead. Jockey Martin Pedroza has the mount. He rode Ultimate Eagle to wins in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby on turf in October 2011 – at odds of 34-1 – and the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on dirt at Santa Anita in February. Pedroza was aboard for the loss in the Big Cap and has worked Ultimate Eagle in the buildup to Friday’s race.

“No one looks like they have Ultimate Eagle’s speed in the race,” Pender said. “Pedroza know the horse better than anyone.”

Pender has a strong team for the Citation, including Jeranimo, winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile here last June. Both Ultimate Eagle and Jeranimo are owned by B.J. Wright of Pasadena, Calif.

Jeranimo was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, finishing 4 1/4 lengths behind the impressive Wise Dan, who ran a course-record time of 1:31.78. Jeranimo was third in the Del Mar Mile in August in his only other start since the Shoemaker Mile. The two losses did not discourage Pender.

“I was pointing for the Breeders’ Cup,” he said. “When it comes down to it, he ran really well. He was five lengths off 1:31. He caught probably the best horse in the world, next to Frankel.”

Ultimate Eagle and Jeranimo have running styles that will suit each other. Jeranimo, 6, is most effective as a closer.

“He likes to take back and slingshot at the three-eighths pole,” Pender said. “He likes to have things his way.”

To reach the front, Jeranimo will not only have to catch Ultimate Eagle, but run past several notable rivals.

Doubles Partner and Data Link were fourth and fifth behind Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland in October. Both won stakes earlier this year – Double Partner in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March and Data Link in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland in April.

Tale of a Champion is the only other runner in the field who started in a Breeders’ Cup race, finishing eighth in the Turf Sprint on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Trained by Kristin Mulhall, Tale of a Champion has not won a stakes beyond five furlongs in his eight-race career.