Martin Panza, vice president of racing at Hollywood Park, pointed to the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Saturday as the highlight of a 40-day Autumn Meet, which concludes today.
“I thought the CashCall Futurity was the best race of the meet,” Panza said Sunday of the Grade I test in which favored Pioneerof the Nile edged I Want Revenge by a nose in 1:41.95 for 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. Chocolate Candy finished third in a field of 11.
The Turf Festival, a series of six grass stakes over three days during the Thanksgiving Day weekend, was highlighted Nov. 30 by the Grade I Matriarch and Grade I Hollywood Derby. Cocoa Beach defeated defending champion Precious Kitten and Visit in The Matriarch while Court Vision rallied from last to defeat a stellar lineup in the Hollywood Derby.
Panza admitted that carding much of the day-to-day racing was challenging, in part because of a weak economy. “Hopefully the economy will get better and business will rebound next year,” said Panza.
Hollywood Park will re-open for a 65-day Spring/Summer Meet on April 22.
BAFFERT, ZAYAT CELEBRATE FUTURITY VICTORY
Trainer Bob Baffert was still riding high Sunday morning after sending out Pioneerof the Nile for a record-equaling fourth victory in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Saturday.
“He looked good this morning,” said Baffert from Santa Anita after the 2-year-old colt was shipped across town. “He punched his ticket to the (Kentucky) Derby yesterday. The plan is to go there — I don’t know which way.”
Baffert said he would later formulate plans for the roadmap in quest of a fourth Derby victory. He tied trainer D. Wayne Lukas with his fourth Futurity victory following scores with Real Quiet, Captain Steve and Point Given — colts who all went on to illustrious careers.
Baffert said he and owner Ahmed Zayat celebrated the victory over dinner last night. “We went out at Fleming’s Restaurant in El Segundo before he took the red-eye home,” said Baffert of the owner from New Jersey. “He was on cloud nine.”
ZILBER, TRAINER OF DAHLIA, DIES AT 88
On the day of the Dahlia Handicap highlighting closing day here, it was reported that Maurice Zilber, who trained the great mare, has died of cancer at age 88.
Dahlia, who earned more than $1.5 million for owner Nelson Bunker Hunt, was North American champion grass horse in 1974, Horse of the Year in England in 1973 and 1974, and champion 3-year-old in Ireland.
Zilber also trained such greats as Exceller, Trillion, Youth, Nobiliary and Empery.
The Egyptian-born trainer spent most of his career in France and several times attended the Turf Festival here. He won a division of the 1991 Generous Stakes with Contested Bid when it was known as the Hoist The Flag.
FINISH LINES — Rafael Bejarano clinched the meet riding title with 52 winners, the most at the meet since Chris McCarron won 54 in 1990. Bejarano missed the last day today to fly to his native Peru for a brief vacation with his family...Training leader Doug O’Neill has already set a meet record of 27 wins — bettering his 2006 mark of 24 — entering the finale today.