Nobody can blame Mark MacDonald for his increasing affection for Materco.
"She's rapidly becoming my favorite horse," said the young trainer after Saturday's $110,800 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park.
In beating Annual Reunion by a head, Materco provided MacDonald, 33, with his first graded stakes victory and was her third added-money win this year. At Santa Anita, she had taken the California Breeders' Stakes and the Providencia.
Reunited with Eddie Delahoussaye, who was aboard for her two victories at Santa Anita, the 3-year-old daughter of Interco and 6-1 third choice was well-positioned throughout and outfinished 8-1 shot Annual Reunion to score in 1:41 2/5 for the 1 1/16 miles on turf.
MacDonald was confident his pride and joy would rebound from her 3-5 failure in the California Oaks April 29 at Golden Gate. She wound up last, 11 1/2 lengths behind Freya Stark, who trailed in the Honeymoon.
"She was making what appeared to be the winning move in that race," he said. "But there was a path across the track where the tractors or equipment had been used and it was quite discolored.
"She just overreacted. She jumped violently into the air and landed very uncoordinated. Russell (Baze) thought she hurt herself and it turned out she did. He pulled her up and she needed about eight stitches in her right foreleg. She was running very good at the time and it looked like she was going to win.
"If she wins that race, she's probably the favorite in here and certainly would have been carrying a few more pounds (than 117). Anyway, I was confident she was going to run a giant today."
Materco's fourth victory in 12 career starts ended a stakes drought for Delahoussaye. He did win the Rolling Green Handicap last week at Golden Gate aboard Nediym, but he hadn't won one locally since Materco's Providencia success.
"She was a little closer than I thought she would be, but she was very relaxed," he said. "In the stretch, (Annual Reunion) opened up and I didn't know if I was going to catch her. My filly just kept giving and giving and, as we got closer to the wire, I knew we were going to get there.
"She's a trier and a real honest filly, Mark's done a great job with her."
Making her first start on turf, Annual Reunion, who was ridden by Pat Valenzuela substituting for the injured Robbie Davis, was almost two lengths ahead of Slew Of Pearls. Nijinsky's Lover was fourth, then came Conteuse, Bimbo, She's A V.P., Tasteful T.V., the 3-1 favorite and Freya Stark.
Robbie Davis suffered bruises on his right leg, but X-rays were negative after he was injured in the starting gate while the horses were loading for the sixth race.
Aboard 2-year-old first-time starter Cadillac Red, Davis was hurt when the colt lunged to the right, pinning Davis' leg between the horse and the starting gate.
Later, Davis was reported to be walking fine and could ride today if he is cleared by Dr. Robert Kerlan.
Prized, who was forced to miss last Monday's Hollywood Turf Handicap and today's Californian, should resume training in a couple of days, according to Jeff Siegel, vice president of Clover Racing Stables.
Unbeaten in three starts on the grass and conqueror of Sunday Silence in last summer's Swaps Stakes, Prized hadn't trained well recently and trainer Neil Drysdale believed the son of Kris S. was suffering from sore feet.
Saturday morning, a pebble popped loose from Prized's left front hoof and that seems the likely cause for the colt's recent problems.
Prized will be pointed for the American Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf July 4 and the 1 1/2-mile Sunset on July 23, closing day.
Anyone who bet on Baralace in Thursday's sixth might as well have torn up their tickets before the five-furlong race for 2-year-old maiden fillies had begun.
The daughter of Barachois, making her first start, had dumped rider Pat Valenzuela on the clubhouse turn, then ran off toward the starting gate. She was collared rather quickly, Valenzuela got back aboard and she was allowed to start.
Predictably, Baralace finished up the track, beating only one of her eight opponents in what had to be a traumatic introduction to her career.
Many horses who dump their riders and get loose before the start of the race are scratched.
The question is, why can't the rule be the same for all horses who do so? Very rarely do horses win after this happens and it's unfair to a public that has bet its money. Sure, if they get lucky, people can make it to the window and cancel their bet, but what about those who are locked into a triple or Pick Six? What about those who might have been at the window and weren't even aware a horse had gotten loose?
In recent months, there have been other examples of horses who should have been scratched, but weren't. Frosty Tower, a maiden-claiming filly, got loose before the second race at Hollywood Park on April 25. She ran up the mile chute and it took a while to corral her. She then finished sixth at 18-1.