Emerging from a wall of horses, City to City got up to win the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita in a head bob over Up in Time, with Wild Mia finishing third
City to City, a 5-year-old City Zip mare trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was ridden to victory by Corey Nakatani. She covered the one mile distance in 1:34.19 and returned $19.00, $7.00, and $5.20.
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2012) – The beaten favorite in her two previous starts, City to City finally got the money by a desperate head over Up In Time Monday in a driving finish to climax Santa Anita's Grade II, $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap after covering the one mile on turf in 1:34.19.
With Corey Nakatani aboard for the first time in the 5-year-old mare's 24-race career, City to City charged to a narrow lead in deep stretch before stoutly resisting the closing bid by Up In Time and jockey Brice Blanc on the extreme outside. It was another half-length back to Wild Mia and David Flores in the blanket finish.
After failing as the 9-5 favorite in Santa Anita's Grade II Robert J. Frankel Stakes on New Year's Day and as the 8-5 choice in Hollywood Park's Grade II Bayakoa Handicap one month before, City to City was dismissed at odds of 8-1 on Presidents' Day.
The public was torn among splashy Chilean import Vamo a Galupiar (3-1 favorite), British newcomer Strawberrydaiquiri (3-1) and Irish-bred Grade I winner Cambina (7-2), whose odds continually fluctuated.
City to City, meanwhile, was looking for her second stakes victory in 13 starts — after a span that included losing by one length or less on six occasions — and her first since taking the Grade II Palomar Handicap on Sept. 5 at Del Mar. She gained little attention this day.
Nakatani kept the City Zip mare, co-owned by Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, in the clear while running in mid-pack during the early going. He moved his mare three wide rounding the final turn to finally overtake Strawberrydaiquiri. The latter quickly dropped back to fourth. She was immediately followed across the line by Cambina and Vamo a Galupiar.
“We were hoping that there would be some legitimate pace in the race, and in a mile race, there always is,” said Nakatani. “This filly was doing fabulous coming into the race. I couldn't have been in a better spot, and the way the race developed was perfect.”
Nakatani felt certain his mount had crossed the finish line first. “But Brice's horse was flying at me,” he added, “and I wasn't sure if we would hold on. When that filly came to her, she (City to City) actually started to run again. I just made sure I had enough horse to get to the position I wanted to be in, and she ran a big race.”
Assistant trainer Dan Ward, deputizing for Hollendorfer, thought a shift in weights proved beneficial. City to City carried 119 pounds on Monday after having shouldered 123 in the Frankel. “She was carrying five pounds more than anybody else in the Frankel and that makes a big difference,” noted Ward.
Those who retained faith in City to City were rewarded with payoffs of $19, $7 and $5.20. Up In Time returned $9 and $6.20. Wild Mia paid $5.80 to show. The victory was worth $90,000 to Hollendorfer and partners William DeBurgh and Mark DeDomenico. The winning purse boosted City to City's career earnings to $509,491 from an overall record of 7-5-5 in 24 races.
According to Ward, the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 15 and the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Barbara Stakes at the same distance on April 21 would be considered for future starts for the Buena Vista winner.
One of the most popular fighters in Southern California boxing history, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, presented the Buena Vista trophy
COREY NAKATANI, CITY TO CITY, WINNER: “We were hoping that there would be some legitimate pace in the race, and in a mile race there always is. This filly was doing fabulous coming into the race. I couldn't have been in a better spot and the way the race developed was perfect. I felt I won the race, but Brice's (Blanc) horse (Up In Time) was flying at me and I wasn't sure if we would hold on. When that filly came to her she actually started to run again. I just made sure I had enough horse to get to the position I wanted to be in and she ran a big race.”
DAN WARD, ASSISTANT TO JERRY HOLLENDORFER, CITY TO CITY, WINNER: “There was a big weight shift from the last race.”
Asked if he gave Nakatani any instructions: “He's the best rider on the turf. He worked her three times; he liked her, so you didn't have to tell him anything. I don't think she has a very long run and you have to wait (to make your move). Last time (in the Grade II Robert J. Frankel Stakes on Jan. 1 at 1 1/8 miles) she was carrying five pounds more than anybody else and that makes a big difference. A mile and an eighth maybe is not as good for her as a mile.”
Ward said the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 15 and the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Barbara Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on April 21 would be considered for future races.
SIMON CALLAGHAN, UP IN TIME, SECOND: “She ran a very good race, and these close losses are heartbreaking, what else can we say? She ran great. It's just disappointing that she came so close.”
NOTES: Hollendorfer was at Oaklawn Park today where Longview Drive ran in the first division of the Southwest Stakes. The winning owners are William Deburgh of Rancho Santa Fe; Jerry Hollendorfer of Point Richmond; and Mark DeDominco of Bellevue, WA.
Former world featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez presented the Buena Vista trophy.
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