Heavily-favored Obviously earned the most significant victory of his career and earned a Breeders' Cup berth with an impressive win in the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
A three-time Grade II winner since arriving in the United States well over a year ago, the Irish-bred collected his first Grade I, leading nearly every step of the way under regular rider Joe Talamo.
With the 3 ¼-length score in the Breeders' Cup Challenge ‘Win and You're In'' race, Obviously, a 6-year-old gelded son of Choisir, will receive a fees-paid spot in the Breeders' Cup Mile, which will be run Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Obviously finished third in the 2012 Mile, beaten by eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino, Obviously, who is out of the Montjeu mare Leala, completed the distance over the Betfair Hollywood Park turf course in 1:32.86. It was the fastest clocking in the Shoemaker Mile since Designed for Luck went 1:32.81 in 2004.
The win was the eighth in 15 starts for the 3-10 choice and enabled trainer Mike Mitchell to reach a milestone.
It was the 900th victory at Betfair Hollywood Park for Mitchell. Only the late Bobby Frankel, who won 952 races locally during his Hall of Fame career, has more.
A winner in five of six starts at one mile on turf, Obviously, who has earned $848,361, paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. It was the shortest win price in race history. The previous low of $2.70 was set by Bolero, who won the 1950 Spring meet renewal when the race was known as the Preview Handicap.
Although Wilkinson was first out of the gate, Obviously had assumed the advantage by the time the field reached the first turn, set 23.06, 46.38 and 1:09.95 fractions and still had more than enough left to spurt away from Za Approval and three other rivals.
“It's funny, the first time I routed this horse (a five-length victory last Aug. 2 at Del Mar), I didn't tell (Talamo) anything,'' said Mitchell. “He opened up five or 10 lengths down the backside and I was ready to strangle him when he came back. Then, at the eighth pole, I said, ‘God, I love that kid.' That's just the way he likes to run, so I never give any instructions.
“The main goal is to run back in the Breeders' Cup Mile, I turned him out last year for no problems at all, just to freshen him. He's razor sharp right now. He's training so well and he looks so good. I think he's better than last year. He's stronger and a little bit more filled out.
“It's great to get 900 wins, especially in a race like this.''
The likely next stop for Obviously is the $250,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap Aug. 25. He won the Grade II by a nose over Mr. Commons last Aug. 26.
Talamo's first victory in the Shoemaker Mile was his meet-high ninth stakes success. He is 5-for-9 in tandem with Obviously.
“He is just an unbelievable horse,'' said Talamo. “He did everything today pretty much as the way we planned. We were cruising early and he kicked away nicely.
“He gave me the same feeling he always does. He knows his job and knows very well what he has to do.''
Entering off a pair of Grade III victories at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park for trainer Christophe Clement, Za Approval finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Wilkinson and paid $3.80 and $3.00. The show price on 16-1 shot Wilkinson, who had won his previous two races over the BHP grass, was $3.80. Defending champion Jeranimo and Lucayan, the 5-1 second choice, completed the order of finish.
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