DEL MAR, CA – Nancy Messineo and Bruce Sands’ former $40,000 claim Oscar Dominguez rallied late and best of all to earn his first graded score in Sunday’s $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.
Breaking from post 7 under John Velazquez at 11/1 odds, Oscar Dominguez was content to trail early, settling along the rail in last as the field headed into the far turn for the first time. Up ahead, Zestful fought two-wide with Brown Storm for the lead before posting opening fractions of :23.68, :48.65, 1:13.43, and 1:38.83 for the opening mile.
As the field entered the far turn for the second time, Chosen Vessel overtook Zestful for the lead. Behind them, Velazquez began steering Oscar Dominguez between foes, forcing the even-money favorite United to run widest of all.
A mad dash for the wire ensued in the final 3/16 of a mile between Ward ‘n Jerry on the inside of Cleopatra’s Strike, Oscar Dominguez, and United. The four fought valiantly, with none giving an inch, but Oscar Dominguez proved to have the most stamina late.
Poking his neck in front of United at the wire, the Richard Baltas trainee crossed in a final time of 2:28.17 for the 1 1/2-mile event over the firm turf course.
“No special instructions from the trainer,” Velazquez said. “He said, ‘You’ve seen the PPs, you know how to ride, go do it.’ That’s how I like it. He came away from there well and the pace was fine. He was comfortable, so I left him alone. When we hit the 3/8 (pole), we squeezed between two horses, and then he took it (clapping his hands together). It sure is nice when they do that.”
Much like it happened in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) a month ago, United came up just short of winning and had to settle for second. This time, he finished a head past Ward ‘n Jerry, while Cleopatra’s Strike was 3/4 of a length further back in fourth.
Chosen Vessel faded to fifth, 3/4 of a length ahead of Brown Storm. Behind them came High Promise, Itsinthepost, Overdue, and a weakened Zestful to complete the order of finish.
Oscar Dominguez’s win was his second since Baltas claimed him for $40,000 on February 7 and improved his overall record to 37-6-6-4. The Irish-bred 6-year-old gelded son of Zoffany has earned $427,630 to date, including $255,031 in 2019.
“Hall of Fame ride,” said Baltas, who clinched his first Del Mar fall meet training title. “This means a lot. We claimed the horse for $40,000 and he’s been overachieving the whole time we’ve had him. Today, there was enough pace for him to run at, John was here to ride him, and everything worked out.”
Oscar Dominguez returned $24.20 to win, $7.40 to place, and $5 to show. United brought back $2.80 to place and $2.40 to show, while Ward ‘n Jerry paid $9.20 to show.