11/27/2011 8:56PM

Hollywood Park: Ultimate Eagle wins Hollywood Derby, completes connections' big weekend

Benoit & Associates
Ultimate Eagle and Martin Pedroza capture the Hollywood Derby on Sunday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Ultimate Eagle completed a dream weekend for owner B.J. Wright and trainer Mike Pender by leading from start to finish in the Grade 1, $250,000 Hollywood Derby on Sunday, one day after Wright and Pender captured the Citation Handicap with Jeranimo.

Ultimate Eagle ($31.40), ignored yet again in the betting, was able to set soft fractions and then hold off a cavalry charge of late runners to prevail by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/4-mile grass race for 3-year-olds.

Imagining, second throughout, held on for second by a half-length over Western Aristocrat. Another neck back in fourth was Slumber, who closed furiously from last in the 11-horse field, his charge compromised by the soft pace. Willcox Inn, the lukewarm favorite at 3-1, finished eighth.

Ultimate Eagle completed 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.43 following fractions of 24.57 seconds, 49.07 seconds, 1:14.12, and 1:37.85 for one mile.

The race was marred by injuries to two horses, one quite serious.

Cloud Man went wrong three furlongs from the finish with what stewards, acting on information provided by the track veterinarian, reported later were fractures to the cannon bone and pastern in his left front leg. He was taken to the barn of his trainer, John Shirreffs, where attempts were being made to save him.

Surrey Star, who finished 10th, needed to be removed from the course in the horse ambulance because of an apparent soft tissue injury to his right front leg, stewards reported.

Ultimate Eagle, a colt by Mizzen Mast, lost the first three starts of his career, but is now unbeaten in four races since being moved to the turf, adding blinkers, and having Martin Pedroza take over as his rider. Ultimate Eagle beat maidens at 4-1 at Del Mar, won a first-level allowance at Del Mar at 7-1, and in his most-recent start captured the Oak Tree Derby as a 34-1 shot.

“Pender was guaranteeing us last time that he’d win at 34-1,” Wright said. “There were no guarantees this time, but we were confident. Pedroza gave him a great ride.

“He ran exactly the way we thought he was going to run. When I saw 1:14 for three-quarters, I knew they’d have a hell of a time catching him.”

Pender said that Pedroza “has somehow found a niche with him to let him gallop on the front end.”