The first Grade I race of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting was decided Monday in a stirring stretch duel, with jockey Joel Rosario guiding Dubawi Heights to victory by a head over pace setter Celtic Princess in the $250,000 Gamely Stakes at 11/8 miles on turf.
"I kind of thought she would [make it], but it was pretty tense," 28-year-old trainer Simon Callagan said.
Dubawi Heights, a 4-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Dubawi, has overcome injuries and ailments to become one of the top female turf horses on the West Coast. She won for the first time in November at Hollywood Park after being 0 for 8. Monday's victory was her fourth in a row and the first Grade I triumph for Callagan, a native of England who has a stable of 14 horses in Southern California.
"It's fantastic," he said. "I couldn't be happier."
Cozi Rosie, the 9-5 favorite, finished third and continued a drought in stakes races for trainer John Sadler, whose horses are 0 for 24 since Cozi Rosie won the Buena Vista Handicap on Feb. 11.
It was another tough day for the track stewards. In the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap, the stewards took down the winner, Amazombie, ridden by Mike Smith, and placed him third for charging between horses in the stretch and bumping M One Rifle, who then bumped Camp Victory. Camp Victory was moved to first and M One Rifle to second.
It was a change of fortunes for jockey Joe Talamo and trainer Mike Mitchell. Last week, the stewards disqualified the Mitchell-trained St. Trinians in the Milady Handicap for interference in the stretch. Talamo received a three-day suspension. But he was aboard Camp Victory in the six-furlong race.
"I think this was a good call," Mitchell said.
Southern California race fans could soon have two royally bred 2-year-old fillies to get excited about.
A half sister to Zenyatta, the 2010 horse of the year, is now in trainer John Shirreffs' barn. Eblouissante is by Bernardini.
"I'm really excited," Shirreffs said. "She's so much like her half sister."
Set to arrive soon in trainer Carla Gaines' barn is an unnamed filly by Dynaformer and a half sister to Nashoba's Key, the 2007 California horse of the year.
"It's really exciting," Gaines said. "They say she's really nice and very classy."