PALOS VERDES STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 6 FURLONGS
Private Zone won the pace battle between he and Comma to the Top in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,500 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita, but ultimately lost the war when 21-1 outsider Sahara Sky rallied from near the back of the field to snatch away the victory by a length in the six-furlong dash.
A head behind Comma to the Top after a quarter in :21 2/5, Private Zone poked his head in front after a half in a blistering :43 3/5. Opening up a short lead at the eighth pole, Private Zone was leg weary late as Sahara Sky made a successful rally under Joe Talamo to finish up in 1:07 3/5. The longest shot in the field of seven, Sahara Sky paid $45.20, $14.40 and $5.
"He ran unbelievable. That was actually the closest he's ever run. I thought he was going to be 10 lengths farther back than he was," Talamo said. "He broke sharply, he put me right there, and I still had a lot of horse when I called on him."
Private Zone held on for a second by a half-length over Justin Phillip, the 5-2 favorite. He was followed by Comma to the Top, Canonize, Drill and Apriority.
A lightly-raced five-year-old son of Pleasant Tap, Sahara Sky had raced only once in stakes company previously, finishing seventh in the 2011 El Cajon at Del Mar. Last season, the dark bay won twice in allowance company, but hadn't raced since finishing third to eventual Grade 2 winner Capital Account in a June 22 allowance at Hollywood Park.
"A fresh horse will break a lot better and maybe lay a lot closer," said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns Sahara Sky with Kim Lloyd's Sweetwater Stables. "We both thought that the two speed horses would hook up and maybe make a good pace for us. That's the key to winning a race like this. We had to have a little pace in front of us for that particular kind of horse, so we got lucky today and he came through for us."
With this initial stakes score, Sahara Sky now sports a line of 13-5-2-4, $190,200.
Bred in Florida by Martin Stables, Sahara Sky was produced by the Grade 3-winning Seeking the Sky, a daughter of Storm Cat and the Grade 2-winning Seeking Regina. This extended family includes Grade 1 winner Bachelor Beau, Grade 2 winner Just Jenda and Grade 3 victor All Squared Away.