Cross the Line gave Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer his fourth straight victory in the $100,000 California Derby when he held off Soul Driver and Stand and Salute down the stretch to win the 100th running of the stakes for 3-year-olds Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.
Cross the Line, who led wire to wire when he broke his maiden in a one-mile maiden allowance race on Dec. 26, raced in third behind pacesetters Midnight Destiny and Rye Patch for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile California Derby before making his winning move on the far turn.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cross the Line surged to the lead at the top of the stretch and continued on strongly to the wire to go from maiden winner to stakes winner in 1:44.79. Cross the Line scored by 1 3/4 lengths over 2-1 favorite Soul Driver, who took second by a neck over Stand and Salute. Tyler Baze rode Soul Driver and Russell Baze was aboard Stand and Salute.
Cross the Line, a Kentucky-bred colt by Line of David, is 2-for-2 under Hernandez.
“He surprised me last time and today too,” said Hernandez. “Last time he broke really good and was strong on the bit and was like running off. Today, he broke good and was better. When I took a little hold to get him to stay behind those horses, he was like a professional horse. He was waiting.
“I asked him a couple of times on the backside and he responded,” continued Hernandez. “At the three-eighths pole, when the group started moving close to me, I pushed him a little bit and he ran like a professional. Then I was just waiting to the stretch and when I asked him, he responded really well. He finished strong.”
Hollendorfer started three horses in the California Derby – Cross the Line, Stand and Salute, and Steel, who finished fifth at odds of 12-1. Cross the Line gave Hollendorfer his eighth career victory in the stakes. His previous triumphs came with the filly Pike Place Dancer in 1996, Cause to Believe in 2006, Bwana Bull in 2007, Chocolate Candy in 2009, Russian Greek in 2012, Zeewat in 2013, and Exit Stage Left in 2014.
“We took our time with him,” said Hollendorfer of Cross the Line, who was purchased as a yearling for $55,000. “He's a big horse and he wasn't responding really well early on. He had some time off after we bought him at the sale. It looks like he might get a little more ground. Juan did a real good job with the horse, so a lot of credit goes to him.”
Cross the Line paid $11.40 to his backers and earned $60,000 for an ownership group that includes Hollendorfer, George Todaro and Live Your Dream Racing Stable.
If all goes well, Cross the Line will make his next start in the Grade 3 $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Golden Gate Fields. The 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby is Northern California's official Kentucky Derby prep.
“I will point him to the El Camino Real Derby with the expectation that he would run pretty well in there,” said Hollendorfer.
Racing continues at Golden Gate Fields Sunday and Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Post time both days is 12:45 p.m. Fans attending the races Sunday will pay only $1 for general parking, $1 for general admission, $1 for a program, $1 for hot dogs, $1 for beers, and $1 for sodas.
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