HOLLYWOOD DERBY | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4-MILES
Lewis G. Lakin's Unbridled Command circled the field on the far turn of Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Hollywood Derby and stormed clear down the stretch, putting an exclamation point on the Turf Festival and extending his winning streak to five. The Tom Bush trainee was an overlay in his first venture outside his home state of New York, leaving the gate as the 7-1 fourth choice, but turned a competitive-looking race into a one-sided affair.
Ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano, who was receiving compensation for his wild fifth aboard Dayatthespa in the Grade 1 Matriarch earlier on the card, Unbridled Command was allowed to settle into stride well off the pace. Only three horses were behind him early, including Lucky Chappy and 7-2 favorite Grandeur, who would eventually take the minor awards.
Golden Ticket led in the opening stages, but deferred to My Best Brother after a quarter-mile in :24 1/5. As My Best Brother carved out splits of :47 4/5 and 1:12 2/5, Unbridled Command was steadily improving his position down the backstretch, and continued his eye-catching momentum rounding the final turn. At the mile mark in 1:36 4/5, he had only My Best Brother in front of him.
Inhaling the longtime leader at the top of the stretch, Unbridled Command put the race away in a few strides and widened his advantage to 2 1/2 lengths. Grandeur mounted a furious rally from dead last in the 14-horse field, and Lucky Chappy also finished well, but the winner was gone beyond recall. Unbridled Command maintained a 1 1/2-length margin at the wire, covered 1 1/4 miles on Hollywood Park's firm turf in 2:01, and paid $16, $7.20 and $6.
"I had a beautiful trip this time, and everything worked out perfect," Castellano recapped. "I saw the horses start backing out, and I chose to go around, and it worked out perfect. I knew the closers would show up down the lane, but I was able to get the jump on them. This was my first time on this horse. I watched his race replays and I was very impressed and really liked him."
Grandeur outkicked Lucky Chappy by a head for best-of-the-rest honors. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to the French filly Rjwa in fourth. Power Foot, Summer Front, My Best Brother, All Squared Away, Big Bane Theory, Handsome Mike, Golden Ticket, Smart Ellis, General Logan and the badly-hampered Speaking of Which rounded out the order of finish. The also-eligible Groovin' Solo stayed in the barn.
Speaking of Which, just nailed by Grandeur in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby last out, was drafting right behind the first flight turning for home when he was stopped cold. Checked sharply and shuffled back, the Dermot Weld colt was eliminated from contention, and jockey Pat Smullen let him come home in a leisurely gallop.
Grandeur's connections felt that he was a trifle unfortunate.
"I had a good trip until turning for home," jockey Garrett Gomez said. "When I turned for home, (Speaking of Which) clipped heels and a couple of them swung out in front of me, so it wasn't the smoothest of trips and I actually had to alter my course."
"We were just a little bit unlucky, I thought," said trainer Jeremy Noseda, who added that Grandeur could wheel back in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup on December 15. "I want to go down there and watch it again."
Trainer Graham Motion was pleased with Lucky Chappy's effort.
"I thought he ran huge," Motion said. "It's just tough to come from that far out of it in a big field. It's asking a lot, but I thought he ran a great race."
The streaking Unbridled Command has now bankrolled $469,040 from his 10-6-1-2 line. His only unplaced run came in his career debut on dirt last summer. Switched to the grass thereafter, he broke his maiden at Aqueduct last November. Unbridled Command took three tries to clear his entry-level allowance condition, checking that box at Belmont on June 23, and followed up with a victory in a second-level event at Saratoga August 1.
Making his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Saranac at the Spa on September 2, the gray rallied boldly to win by a half-length. Unbridled Command made it four in a row by crushing older New York-breds in the October 20 Mohawk at Belmont by 6 3/4 lengths, and now collected his first Grade 1 tilt here. As a son of Master Command, the strongly-made colt was entitled to improve with maturity and distance, and he promises to keep progressing.
"He likes to track on the turns," Bush said. "He just matures from race to race to race. I couldn't dream of a horse developing any nicer than this horse. He's really gotten special. He's going to fly to Palm Meadows tonight and we'll figure out his next race.''
Bred by Sequel Thoroughbreds and A. Lakin and Sons in the Empire State, Unbridled Command was sold for $28,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS April. He is out of the unraced Unbridled's Song mare Unbridled Betty, who is a half-sister to stakes-winning stakes producers Tarage and Chartreuse. Another of her half-siblings, the winning Nureyev mare Astaire Step, produced multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Manistique. This is also the family of multiple Grade 2 victress Randaroo and Grade 1 queen Freedom Cry.