LA JOLLA HANDICAP. | PURSE: $150,000 | THREE YEAR OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16TH-MILES (TURF)
Glen Hill Farms' homebred Old Time Hockey rallied to catch My Best Brother in the final strides of Saturday's Grade 2, $147,000 La Jolla Handicap, registering his first stakes victory with a nose decision over the Del Mar turf. Joe Talamo delivered the well-timed ride for trainer Tom Proctor, and the three-year-old Smarty Jones gelding completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:40 2/5.
After finishing third behind My Best Brother in the first division of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes, Old Time Hockey gained a measure of revenge as the 5-2 second choice among four rivals and paid $7.60 and $3.20. There was no show betting in the short field. Old Time Hockey broke his maiden this spring on Gulfstream Park's turf in his fourth career start and captured a grass allowance at Hollywood Park three starts later. He was making his second stakes attempt Saturday and has now earned $200,228 from a 9-3-2-2 career line.
My Best Brother showed speed as expected from the start, quickly sprinting clear a few strides out of the gate, and completed the opening quarter-mile in a reasonable :23 4/5 with a 4 1/2-length cushion. Chips All In was racing in second, 1 1/2 lengths better than Old Time Hockey in third, and Blingo brought up the rear.
Sensing the need to keep My Best Brother from running off, his three challengers began to narrow the gap as the field straightened into the backstretch. The pacesetter reached the half-mile point in :47 4/5 on a one-length advantage as Chips All In and Old Time Hockey closed in, but My Best Brother responded when challenged and kicked clear by a couple of lengths rounding the bend.
Old Time Hockey swung widest of all turning for home, but there was still work to be done as My Best Brother continued to grimly hold the advantage in midstretch. It developed into a thrilling three-horse battle late, with Chips All In and Old Time Hockey offering a bold challenge as the wire approached, and Old Time Hockey got up just in time to secure the win, with My Best Brother edging Chips All In by a head for second. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Blingo, who trailed throughout.
"They (the horse's training staff) told me to ride him as hard as I could. They said the more you ride him, they more he'll give you," Talamo said. "They sure were right."
"I was hoping that (Garrett) Gomez (on Chips All In) would push (My Best Brother) a little bit. I was kind of scared because I didn't really see him do it and I thought we might be in a little bit of a spot there," Proctor commented. "But our horse runs good. And (My Best Brother) -- what, has he won four in a row? (Actually three)
"Our horse has been improving each race and doing well," the conditioner added. "If everything's good we'll look at the (Grade 2) Del Mar Derby (on September 2) next. We'll see."
The Florida-bred Old Time Hockey hails from the stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Grat, a daughter of Grade 1 winner Likeable Style. The 10-year-old broodmare is a half-sister to the unraced Love Style, the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner and successful young sire Scat Daddy. Old Time Hockey's third maternal dam is multiple Grade 1-placed stakes winner Personable Lady.