Laffit Pincay has won 230 stakes at Hollywood Park, and it is unlikely many of them came much easier than his latest.
Remaining unbeaten in five starts on turf, Tight Spot broke on top in Saturday's $108,400 Inglewood Handicap, opened up 1 1/2 lengths after a 24 1/5 first quarter and won the 1 1/16-mile race by by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:40 1/5.
Pincay never even had to think about using his whip.
"Anybody could have ridden that horse," Pat Valenzuela chided Pincay while they watched the replay.
"Anyone could have ridden him, but I'm the one that's going to get paid," Pincay answered.
Tight Spot's victory capped a great day for trainer Ron McAnally. Festin rallied from far back to win the $500,000 Nassau County Handicap at Belmont Park by seven lengths on the same card as the Belmont Stakes.
Actually, the Inglewood would have been a thriller without Tight Spot. Somethingdifferent came from last to beat Razeen by a head for the place. A nose back in fourth was Madjaristan and he was a head better than Jungle Pioneer. Military Shot, the longest shot in the field at 26-1, was last, nearly two lengths behind Jungle Pioneer.
With the scratch of Marquetry, who will run in today's Californian, Tight Spot was able to steal an easy lead, although assistant trainer Eduardo Inda insists the colt doesn't need to be in front to succeed. When he won the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar last summer, Tight Spot was never more than a half-length behind.
"He ran super, he's going super right now," Inda said. "The plan now is to run him back in the American Handicap (1 1/8 miles on the turf July 4)."
Pincay, who has ridden the 4-5 favorite in his last three races, doesn't think anybody has seen the best of him yet.
"He's good right now and I think he's going to get better," he said. "He won pretty easy today. The thing about this horse is that he loves to run. He goes out there and he does his job."
Although they didn't remind anyone of Lite Light and Meadow Star, Winglet and Ifyoucouldseemenow staged a stretch-long battle in Saturday's $108,300 Princess Stakes.
Winglet, in her stakes debut and in her first start with blinkers, beat the 8-5 favorite by a neck in 1:43 for the 1 1/16 miles.
In only her third start, the 3-year-old Alydar filly overcame a wide trip to beat the much-more experienced Ifyoucouldseemenow, who was four lengths better than Fappies Cosy Miss. Garden Gal, who would have been coupled with Ifyoucouldseemenow, was scratched Saturday morning.
"She gets better and better every time we run her," trainer Dick Lundy said of Winglet, the 7-2 second choice. "She closed a ton of ground (when third) the last time we ran her on a really speed-biased track. We put blinkers on her today just to try and focus her and not let her fall 10-12 lengths back.
"She was still a little green the first part of it. (Jockey) Pat (Valenzuela)) said she really didn't get into the race until down the backside, but she's only run three times. She's just learning.
"We'll run her back in the Hollywood Oaks (June 23) if she comes out of this one well. This filly is improving every time and I think she deserves a chance to run in the Oaks."
Owned by and bred by Allen Paulson, Winglet had to withstand a foul claim by Martin Pedroza, the rider of the runner-up. It was quickly dismissed by the stewards.
"(Ifyoucouldseemenow) was drifting a little bit, we made a little bit of contact and I guess (Pedroza) thought I came in on him," Valenzuela said.
"When I went by Martin's filly I thought I had her beaten, but she came back and got about a neck on me. I really got into my filly and she really shut her down the last sixteenth."
Officer Lea was fourth in the Princess, four lengths behind Fappies Cosy Miss, then came Island Shuffle, Shy Trick and Number's Game.
Mervyn LeRoy Handicap winner Louis Cyphre is the 5-2 morning line favorite for today's $300,000 Californian at Hollywood Park.
The final prep for the $1-million Hollywood Gold Cup in three weeks, the 1 1/8-mile Californian will have 10 starters after the scratch Saturday afternoon of Robyn Dancer.
Anshan, the beaten favorite in the LeRoy but a nose winner over Louis Cyphre in Santa Anita's San Bernardino Handicap, is the 3-1 second choice. The high weight at 118 pounds along with Louis Cyphre and Super May, Anshan will be ridden by Chris McCarron and will be trying to provide trainer Charlie Whittingham with his 12th Californian victory. Whittingham won last year with Sunday Silence, his fifth victory in the Grade I race since 1982.
Super May is next at 5-1, then comes Timebank and My Boy Adam (6-1), Roanoke (8-1), Marquetry (10-1), Ultrasonido (15-1) and Nuits St. Georges and Music Prospector (50-1).
Horse Racing Notes
Saturday was a huge day for jockey agent Bob Meldahl. His two riders, Pat Valenzuela and Laffit Pincay Jr., won six of the nine races at Hollywood Park. . . . Gum came from last to win the $61,400 Fifty Six Ina Row Handicap. Nine lengths off the lead after a 44 3/5 half-mile, the 5-year-old Maxistar gelding beat 9-10 favorite Burn Annie by a neck in 1:16 for the 6 1/2 furlongs and returned $15.60.
Besides Sunday Silence, trainer Charlie Whittingham's other winners in the Californian are Porterhouse (1956), Social Climber (1957), Cougar (1971-72), Quack (1973-74), Erins Isle (1982), The Wonder (1983), Greinton (1985) and Judge Angelucci (1987).