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Rail Trip turns into a golden oldie

His solid run as a 4-year-old continues with a three-length victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

July 12, 2009|BILL DWYRE

It turns out, there is life after the Kentucky Derby, after all.

The consolation prize, for trainer Ron Ellis and his longtime owners, Mace and Samantha Siegel of Beverly Hills, took the form of victory in Saturday's prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup.

Their aptly named Rail Trip, saving ground nicely all the way around and opening up on the stretch for a three-length victory under Jose Valdivia Jr., won it for them.

And what a consolation it was.

The purse was $700,000, with 60% to the winners and a yellow brick road for a future.

"This race was geared to seeing about a run in the Breeders' Cup Classic," Ellis said. "Now, that looks like the plan."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, July 15, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Horse racing: An article on the Hollywood Gold Cup in Sunday's Sports section said that Rail Trip, winner of the Gold Cup, had won the Californian on June 9. The Californian was run on June 13.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 19, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Horse racing: A Sports article July 12 on the Hollywood Gold Cup said Gold Cup winner Rail Trip had won the Californian on June 9. It was June 13.

The Breeders' Cup will be at Santa Anita on Nov. 6-7, and the Classic has a $5-million purse.

But that's not all.

"Oh, he'll run at least once, maybe twice before that," Ellis said. "It's kind of hard to train a horse right up to the Breeders" Cup.

Samantha Siegel, whose father, Mace, watched from the stands, had more specific ideas about the future of Rail Trip, as she met the media in the Winner's Circle.

"My dad is 83. His birthday is Sept. 1," Samantha said. "Maybe we can get a Pacific Classic for him."

That would be the marquee, $1-million race of the upcoming Del Mar meeting Sept. 6.

Money is not everything, especially when you are talking about the prestige of a Kentucky Derby. But the turn in events Saturday for Rail Trip and the 49-year-old Ellis, who was born and raised in Southern California and has been a local trainer since he was 20, was bittersweet. That was the word Ellis used to describe the series of events leading to Saturday's Grade I victory.

"This was my Derby horse," Ellis said. "I knew it after the first couple of workouts. I could just see it.

"Then he chipped a bone in his ankle and the dream was over. I just told myself that he still could be a great older horse."

And so Rail Trip, now age 4, has become that.

After surgery, Rail Trip went to the races, not even breaking his maiden until last Nov. 7 as a 3-year-old. He won again at Hollywood Park just before the end of 2008, then ran off three more wins this year at Santa Anita before finishing second in the Mervyn Leroy on May 9 and the Californian on June 9. Rail Trip has now started eight times, won six and finished second the other two times.

"Those two losses toughened him up," Samantha Siegel said.

Ellis agreed and said he was sure about everything else going into Saturday's race, except for the 1 1/4 -mile distance.

"I worried that I was stretching him a bit," Ellis said.

So were the bettors, who sent him off at 9-1. Those who had faith got returns of $21.40, $10.60 and $6.20.

Tres Borrachos, kept at the front much of the way by Joe Talamo, hung on for second and paid $21.60 and $11.80. Life Is Sweet, the John Shirreffs-trained mare that was the talk of the race leading up to it for taking on the boys, got third with a late run under Garrett Gomez and paid $4.00.

Ellis had been one of the non-believers over a female's chances in this race.

"I just didn't think she was a Zenyatta," Ellis said, referring to Shirreffs' Breeders' Cup champion mare. "This race is a different world. But hats off to them for trying."

And hats off to Ellis for keeping faith in Rail Trip.

"You get that Derby dream," he said, "and you know it's unrealistic, especially with the number of horses I have. But I went to the Derby twice and finished fourth both times, so I know what it takes and how it works. And this horse had it."

Still does, obviously, even though his 3-year-old Triple Crown is long gone.

Ellis and the Siegel's need no more proof of that than to look at the previous 69 runnings of this race, and some of the winners: Seabiscuit, Kayak II, Citation, Swaps, Gallant Man, Native Diver, Ack Ack, Quack, Exceller, Affirmed, Ferdinand, Cigar, Skip Away, Real Quiet and Lava Man.

Any Kentucky Derby winner would be proud to be in that company.


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