Kona Gold, the high weight under 124 pounds, finished sixth and last as the 7-5 favorite after make a mild rally to third along the rail before fading through the stretch.
The weight and his age are all catching up to him,” said jockey Alex Solis, who has ridden the 9-year-old Kona Gold in 26 consecutive races, all but the gelding’s first start. “I think they should be giving HIM weight now, because he’s an old man. He really got tired the last 16th (of a mile).”
Avanzado, a 6-year-old owned by Cee’s Stable, LLC, trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Tyler Baze under 116 pounds, finished sixth, beaten four lengths, behind Kona Gold in the 5 ½-furlong El Conj Handicap (Gr. III). But blinkers and the scratch Sunday morning of Hombre Rapido made a difference.
The blinkers were a huge help,” O’Neill said. “The scratch (of Hombre Rapido) probably was an even bigger help, him (Avanzado) not getting pressure early on. He stood a lot more quiet in the gate with the blinkers on, and he was able to break with the field and that definitely seemed to be a little bit of a problem his last couple of starts.”
Mellow Fellow rallied from last to gain second, a half-length in front of Disturbingthepeace. Radiata and D’wildcat finished in a dead-heat for fourth, a neck behind Disturbingthepeace, followed by Kona Gold.
He’s got age and weight going against him, because he spotted Avanzado eight pounds and six years,” trainer Bruce Headley said of Kona Gold. “If they want him to compete, they’re going to have to stop making him high weight. Alex said he pulled up fine.”
Avanzado, who carried 116 pounds, set fractions of :21.52, :43.81 and :55.58 in winning for the ninth time from 21 starts. He reeled off three consecutive victories in the United States after arriving from South America, including the Forest Hills Handicap (Gr. II) at Belmont Park last Oct. 6. The son of Luhuk earned $90,000, increasing his career total to $373,480. He paid $15 to win as the third choice.
TYLER BAZE, AVANZADO, WINNER: "He was screwing around his last couple of races and the trainer and I discussed trying blinkers. The way he broke today, obviously the blinkers worked. He broke on top and never stopped. He’s one runnin’ son-of-a-gun."
DOUG O’NEILL, AVANZADO, WINNER: "Tyler (Baze) mentioned putting blinkers on him, because he’s pretty active in the gate. But he didn’t have to stand there very long today because it was a small field, so that helped. The blinkers were a huge help. The scratch (of speedster Hombre Rapido) probably was an even bigger help, him (Avanzado) not getting pressure early on. He stood a lot more quiet in there (gate) with the blinkers on, and he was able to break with the field and that definitely seemed to be a little bit of a problem his last couple of starts. We were all hoping he’d run good but we weren’t prepared what to say if we got lucky enough to win. We’ll let it sit and figure out a game plan (for his next race)."
NOTES: This was the first Palos Verdes win for both Tyler Baze and Doug O’Neill.
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