DEL MAR, CA – After five straight “close but no cigar” efforts to start his career, Bardy Farm and OG Boss’ Mo Forza made it three straight after putting forth another winning effort in Saturday’s $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar.
Breaking from the rail under Paco Lopez as the 5/2 favorite, Mo Forza received a decent bump from Uncle Bull to his outside shortly thereafter but soon collected himself and raced in third as the field exited the chute onto the main track. Up ahead, Uncle Bull closely tracked Neptune’s Storm, who asserted himself on the front end through opening fractions of :23.90, :48.22, and 1:12.44.
Uncle Bull gave way in the far turn, leaving only Neptune’s Storm in Mo Forza’s way. Lopez angled his steed out to bid alongside the pacesetter in the stretch and gained a narrow advantage halfway home. Thought Neptune’s Storm battled back hard on the inside, Mo Forza proved too game. The Peter Miller trainee prevailed by 3/4 of a length in a final time of 1:48.57 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the good turf course.
“You can look good when you’re riding the best horse in the race,” said Lopez, who also won the Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3) and the Red Carpet Handicap (G3) earlier on the card. “You’ve just got to get lucky. I was using my hands on him during the running … I think he liked my hands. When we made the lead, he was waiting (on other horses), but we got busy. Today was a special day for me. Here I am: Del Mar, big horses, good jockeys, and I get to win three stakes. You’ve got to be lucky; I was today.”
Just a 1/2-length behind Neptune’s Storm came Standard Deviation, who rallied from over 7 lengths off the pace to take third. With a little bit more track, jockey John Velazquez felt that he could have won the race.
“We ran out of racetrack,” he said. “We just got a little too far back. I had a good trip otherwise.”
Standard Deviation’s Chad Brown stablemate Digital Age finished fourth after getting blocked in the stretch while making his final run. Succeedandsurpass followed in fifth, while Originaire nosed out Proud Pedro for sixth.
Completing the order of finish came Henley’s Joy, Nolde, Mr Dumas, Moody Jim, and a spent Uncle Bull. Kingly was scratched.
Mo Forza’s win extended his win streak to three – including the Twilight Derby (G2) last out – to improve his overall record to 8-3-3-1. The 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo has now earned $379,460, with all starts coming in 2019.
“Really nice horse and a super ride,” Miller said. “He got banged pretty good coming out of the gate, but he came back strong. I think it’s just maturity (for improvement in last two starts). I’d like to say it was some genius trainer move, but I’d be lying. I’ve always been high on this horse. He’s always shown a lot of ability, but it has taken time for him to put it all together; but we knew he had it in him.”
Mo Forza returned $7.60 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.40 to show. Neptune’s Storm brought back $6.40 to place and $4.20 to show, while Standard Deviation paid $5 to show.