01/19/2013 7:13PM

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.

Dave More than 1 year ago
If Private Zone ever catches a field where he can get a clear lead, watch out. Maybe next time.
Eileen Hasner More than 1 year ago
A great match with jockey Joe Talamo on Sahara Sky. Great ride Joe! Excellent upset.
John More than 1 year ago
Poor poor Private Zone, this is FOUR times he has run well , only for second . One thing though, there is no quit in this horse. Each time he has been caught, he has fought back and held 2nd . I wonder if its time to consider stretching this horse out, his speed and heart could be dangerous going longer. Ive bet him all 4 times, after the first outing, Ive learned to back wheel him. "Dorf" is an excellent trainer...........................seems to have adjusted well to So Cal .
Jordan More than 1 year ago
As for Sahara Sky, last year I really grew to like him. He was one of the few closers last year at Santa Anita that was consistently able to come with a big late run, fast pace or not. And while Sahara Sky can run on synth, especially Cushion Track, it's clear he's best on dirt. However, I didn't see him winning this race. As sharp as he was last year, Hollendorfer didn't try him in a stakes. So, in the Palos Verdes Sahara Sky was being asked to make his graded stakes debut while coming off a 7 month layoff. It was tough seeing him run this big on paper. And run big Sahara Sky did. Although it is true that Sahara Sky benefitted from the pace duel and received an excellent trip, so did Justin Phillip, Drill, Apriority, and Cannonize. However, it was only Sahara Sky that did anything with it. Justin Phillip ran 3rd, and the other closers couldn't even beat Comma to the Top. So, this win for Sahara Sky was about more than just trip.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I can write that Private Zone, for the 4th consecutive race, probably ran the best race. And he probably did. But yet again, it wasn't good enough. Private Zone won the early pace battle against the valliant Comma to the Top, but Comma's presence ultimately doomed Private Zone in the stretch. With Private Zone softened, proven Santa Anita horse, Sahara, Sky was able to benefit. That Private Zone was able to run 43 and change while head and head with another quality horse, and still get beaten under a length speaks to his talent. But duel or not, blazing fractions or not, if Private Zone was truly an elite sprinter on the national and international scene, he finds a way to beat this field. The major problem for Private Zone is that he appears to be a one dimensional frontrunner. And one dimensional frontrunning sprinters have a tendency to create difficult trips. I use the word create because the mere presence of Comma to the Top didn't create a speed duel. When Comma popped out of the gate first and was ridden for speed, it would have been a great opportunity for Pedroza to tighten the reins a bit and settle in a length or so behind Comma. And watching the replays, I do believe Pedroze was trying to get Private Zone to settle more. But the horse just wanted to go. Even rounding into the turn, Pedroza was not riding Private Zone hard or pushing him to get the lead. Pedroza knew he had Comma whenever he wanted. But because he couldn't get Private Zone more off the bit, the horse expended too much energy early. If Private Zone is a horse that simply can't rate when the situation demands it, he's likely going to find himself involved in duels like this. Sure, some races with little other speed, he will be able to run them off their feet. But in the major grade 1 races, that's unlikely to occur.
Timothy Wheelster More than 1 year ago
He had some drugs in him today. Hollendorfer is notorious for doing that. That is how he is winning at such a high % for the last decade at Golden Gate.
Keith Strouhal More than 1 year ago
Picked him to win after glancing at the form for a few minutes and never wavered. Setup and ran exactly like I pictured it with the speed duel and Talamo getting him home. Sahara Sky had always closed brilliantly over the Santa Anita dirt before and today Hollendorfer had him ready to shine. :)
Mike B More than 1 year ago
Talamo is one of the better closers in the jockey colony. He rode the claimer I had an interest in in just this fashion to its best finish (when we had it). If you have a closer on dirt with speed horse, he is one of the best bets. On turf, Gomez does the same thing. They have a real knack for saving just enough horse.
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
Ran completly over his previous form....Different horse today
Nick Arden More than 1 year ago
Yeah, didn't see that coming.