12/03/2012 11:43AM

Trip Notes: Native Diver and Vernon O. Underwood Stakes


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Betfair Hollywood Park
Native Diver (race 4)

After finishing a disappointing seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Game On Dude got back on track and pushed his career earnings to more than $3 million with the help of a very soft pace scenario. The track was listed as fast, but rain the prior day and earlier on the card surely made the surface play much slower. Game On Dude broke a bit slow, but was hustled right out to the lead. From there, he was able to set what were on this track modest splits, was challenged into the lane by Nonios, but had plenty left in the tank to get going again late and draw away. Nonios, who finished just in front of Game On Dude in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, stalked the winner from the start, made a threatening move into the lane, got within a head of that foe by midstretch, but couldn’t stay with him late while much the best of the rest. Kettle Corn, the defending champ, stalked but couldn’t finish with the top two, while Richard’s Kid was last much of the way and never got involved. Surely the pace scenario made it impossible for those two as they were trying to catch a couple fresh, and classy, horses.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Betfair Hollywood Park
Vernon O. Underwood (race 8)

Smiling Tiger is back. The former Grade 1 winner saw his form tail off this spring, but after surgery to correct a breathing issue and a freshening, he came back with a very nice third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He showed that run was no fluke as he beat a tough field here. He bided his time early in fourth while Private Zone set the pace under pressure first from Smash and then from Comma to the Top, pounced on those foes into the lane, grabbed the lead late, and edged away. His goal is reportedly the Group 1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March. Private Zone, the one-time Panamanian hotshot and lone 3-year-old in the field who showed he’s the real deal when second in a stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, validated that here. He went right out to set the pace, was under constant pressure first from Smash and then from Comma to the Top, looked in deep trouble when Comma to the Top actually grabbed the lead in midstretch, but came back doggedly to edge past that foe though he couldn’t finish with the winner. The Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 seems a logical next spot. Capital Account broke slowly, sat last early, commenced his run into the lane, and finished well. He just wasn’t good enough.