01/19/2013 6:13PM

Santa Anita: Sahara Sky takes advantage of speed duel to upset Palos Verdes Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Joe Talamo guides Sahara Sky, the longest shot on the board, to a surprise win in the Palos Verdes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Sahara Sky was entered in Saturday’s $150,500 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita as a horse returning from a seven-month layoff in need of a race.

The gamble of starting the four-time winner in his first graded stakes resulted in the first stakes win for the 5-year-old, who benefited from a perfect trip.

Sahara Sky closed from sixth in a field of seven to win the Grade 2 Palos Verdes by a length over pacesetter Private Zone. Chasing the speed duel between Private Zone and Comma to the Top, Sahara Sky rallied wide to reach the front in the final sixteenth under jockey Joe Talamo.

Sahara Sky ($45.20) was the longest shot in the field and ran six furlongs in 1:07.73. Comma to the Top and Private Zone contributed to a pace of 21.50 and 43.61 seconds.

“We thought the two speed horses would hook up,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “We had to have a little pace in front of us.”

Private Zone, second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, held second, finishing a half-length in front of Justin Phillip, the 5-2 favorite. Justin Phillip was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint here in November.

Comma to the Top was fourth, followed by Canonize, Drill, and Apriority.

Sahara Sky is co-owned by Hollendorfer and Sweetwater Stable. The winner of two optional claimers for sprinters last year here and at Betfair Hollywood Park, Sahara Sky had not started since finishing third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park last June. After that race, Hollendorfer said Sahara Sky was in need of a break.

“He’s been very sound of late,” Hollendorfer said. “When he gets body sore, we’ve turned him out.

“It’s the best he’s been feeling. Hopefully, we have one of the best sprinters [around] here.”

By Pleasant Tap, Sahara Sky has won 5 of 13 starts and $236,680.