Stormello, a Kentucky-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, came into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last month at Churchill Downs off a narrow win in the Norfolk Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. After attending a 0:46 3/5 half mile in the Juvenile, he understandably faded to finish fifth, beaten 15 3/4 lengths. The loss left him with only two wins from six starts.
Saturday, racing over Hollywood Park's artificial surface, jockey Kent Desormeaux had Stormello on the lead, but this time at a more reasonable pace. At the top of the stretch, Liquidity came to challenge and put a head in front but Stormello had enough left this time to rally, fighting back to win by a neck. Roman Commander was third under the wire.
After a half in 0:47 3/5, Stormello finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.19. The favorite, Belgravia, finished fourth after some trouble in the first turn.
"He got passed in the lane and I sincerely thought he was beat at that point," Desormeaux said of Stormello. "He found it in him somewhere to grind it out big and find some more and catch the horse that was heading him at the sixteenth pole."
Trainer and part-owner Bill Currin said the rally is the sign of "a very, very good horse. I'm thrilled. ... I think he'll be a champion horse."
In Sunday's $459,250 Hollywood Starlet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Romance Is Diane rallied from a pace-stalking trip to take the lead turning for home and held on at the end to win by 1 length over Quick Little Miss. Down was third. The favorite, Mistical Plan, faded to finish eighth.
Romance Is Diane is a California-bred daughter of In Excess. With David Flores in the irons, she ran 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:42.61, picking up her third straight victory.
"Perfect trip," said winning trainer Mike Mitchell. "I told David she doesn't have to have the lead. She loves to lay right off it."
In other weekend racing:
Calder Race Course
Devil's Preacher delivered his sermon in the lane in Saturday's $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap -- the co-feature of Grand Slam III. After racing just off the early pace, the 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit rallied three-wide into the stretch and drew clear, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over pace-setter Bob's Proud Moment. The favorite, Ramazutti, finished third. Devil's Preacher, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, ran the 1 1/2 mile on a sloppy main track in 2:38.28. Seven of the original starters were scratched when the race was moved off the turf, leaving only six to contest the event. "We wanted to run him on the turf," said winning trainer George Weaver. "But with his pedigree, we thought for $200,000, we'd give him a chance. He just showed more on turf at the beginning. We never went back to try dirt until today." He added, "Let's just call this an early Merry Christmas."
The $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap for fillies and mares also came off the turf but Safari Queen didn't seem to mind. With John Velazquez up, the 4-year-old, Argentine-bred filly went right to the lead, extended her advantage throughout and won by 5 1/4 lengths over Barancella. Private Betty finished third. The 1 1/2 mile went in 2:38.57. "It was nice to know going in that she won two dirt races in Argentina," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She trained fine on the dirt but we thought she would do better on turf." He said he will still focus on turf racing for Safari Queen, however. She has won half her eight starts this year.
Weigelia led from gate to wire in the $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Paradise Dancer. How's Your Halo finished third. Weigelia, with Eddie Castro in the irons for trainer Michael Trombetta, ran 7 furlongs on the sloppy track in 1:24.02. Weigelia is a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Safely's Mark. "His next start will probably be in the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream (Jan. 7)," Trombetta said. "The Sunshine Millions race for him is at Santa Anita but we'll give it some consideration."
And in the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper, Hesanoldbull sat back of a runaway leader early, picked up the pieces from that early pace run and went along to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Rehoboth was second and Dry Martini finished third. Hesanoldbull, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Broad Brush, ran 9 furlongs on the sloppy track in 1:51.87 under Rafael Bejarano. Trainer Nick Zito saddled the winner for the third straight year. "To win this race three times in a row is very special, with the tradition," said Zito. "Fred Hooper was one of the truly great people in the sport." Hooper won the Kentucky Derby in 1945 with his first Derby starter, Hoop Jr. He died in 2000 at the age of 102, still trying to win the Run for the Roses a second time.
Romeos Wilson raced near the back of the 10-horse pack early in Saturday's $125,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap for New Mexico-breds, came five-wide on the turn and prevailed in the stretch run, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Cattleman Prospect. Gulchrunssweet finished third. Romeos Wilson, a 9-year-old gelding by Jack Wilson, got the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.32.
Diligent Prospect, under Francisco Duran, pressed the pace early in Saturday's $50,000 KLAQ Handicap, then took charge and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Any Questions, with Alfredo Juarez Jr. riding. Spanish Highway finished third. Diligent Prospect, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred son of Diligence, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.29.
In Sunday's $125,000 New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap for state-breds, Skirt Alert didn't exactly break alertly but made up for it on the turn. Coming to the lead four-wide, the 4-year-old Prospector Jones filly quickly hit the front and drew off smartly to win by 6 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Hollywood Gone finished second and Alley's Lady was third. Skirt Alert, with Duane Sterling aboard, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.59
Hawthorne Race Course
I Got a Dream dueled with the favorite, Caruso, throughout the early furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity for state-bred juveniles, put that one away and went on to win by 1 length. Caruso saved second and Marksmilk Is White finished third. I Got a Dream, by The Deputy, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:48.28. Caruso had beaten I Got a Dream in an earlier leg of the state-bred stakes series but I Got a Dream had gained experience since in an allowance route race. "I really felt that having run in a two-turn race already gave us a shot," said winning trainer Chris Richard." The race is named for the former Illinois governor, who also is one of the state's leading owner/breeders, primarily in Standardbreds.
Devilment was quickly in front in Saturday's $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap, set a moderate pace and cruised home first, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Ray Power. Cloudy's Knight finished third and the favorite, Purim, faded to finish sixth. Devilment, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Peaks and Valleys, ran the "about" 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.40 with Lonnie Meche in the irons.
Sassy Love dueled for the lead in Saturdays' $75,000 Geisha Handicap for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, got the advantage on the backstretch and held well to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Best to You. Katie's Love was a head farther back in third. Sassy Love, a 5-year-old mare by Valley Crossing, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:54.14 for jockey Luis Garcia. "There really is a Santa Claus and he's here today for me, that's for sure," said winning owner Michael Harrison.
Bishop Court Hill jumped right to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Gravesend Handicap and was never headed, winning by 1 length over Santana Strings. The favorite, Will He Shine, got home third. Bishop Court Hill, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Holy Bull, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.23 for jockey John Velazquez.
Victory Pool came from off the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Gold Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares, got the lead in the stretch and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Dina. The favorite, Samsincharge, got home third after leading most of the way. Victory Pool, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred filly by Victory Gallop, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.57 over the fast inner track. Eibar Coa applied the winning ride.
Stormin Away rallied from the back of the field to win Saturday's $55,000 Val Royal Stakes by a head over Buckland Manor, who then was disqualified to fourth for stretch interference. El Don and Clipperdown were promoted to second and third. Stormin Away, with Corey Nakatani aboard, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.99.
Makin Copy pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Eleanor M. Casey Memorial for West Virginia-bred, 2-year-old fillies, got the lead on the backstretch and held the advantage to the wire, winning by 2 lengths over Salony. Disco Sue was third. Makin Copy, a daughter of Makin, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:24.89 for jockey Jesus Sanchez.
Sidcup rallied five-wide around the field on the far turn in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes, got the lead at mid-stretch and held on to win by 1/2 length over Special Event. Gin and Sin finished third. Sidcup, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Running Stag, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:49.62 with Alonso Quinonez aboard. "I was trying to keep him relaxed and keep him clear," said Quinonez, "so when I asked him, I could let him run. I was behind the pack of horses and then he came flying with a big move."
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