Sutherland, a 32-year-old native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, registered her first Hollywood Park stakes win in the Grade III Generous, but she is no stranger to the winner’s circle. She is among North America’s leading jockeys in 2008 as her mounts have earned more than $5.7 million. She was third in the standings at Canada’s Woodbine before leaving in October to ride at Santa Anita Park, where she had enjoyed success earlier in the year.
"This was my first graded win in California,” said Sutherland, whose first graded win in the U.S. came on Smokume in the 2005 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park. “I thought he'd get the distance because last time he galloped out so well and he accelerated from the field. It was just a matter of being left alone from the other horses. I was not moving — I was trying to be like a statue on him. As soon as he opened up he was kind of distracted and not running too hard, but when I asked him and needed him, I could just feel I had a lot of horse.”
Mr. Rod, trained by Dan Hendricks, covered one mile in 1:35.04 on the Lakeside Turf Course while paying $15.60, $5.40 and $3 as the fourth choice in the field of eight 2-year-olds. Bittel Road returned $2.80 and $2.10. Hype and Bourbon Bay finished another 2 ¼ lengths back in a dead heat for third, each paying $2.10 to show.
Sutherland had added incentive in the run for the wire as she was pursued by her boyfriend — Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith — aboard Bittel Road.
"They were going fast enough for him,” Smith said. “If I could have gotten my colt to switch leads I might have gotten up. The ground's a little soft and he's a big, strong colt and he was having a lot of trouble with it. He just didn't feel confident enough with the ground to plant and switch (leads)."
Mr. Rod, a $45,000 purchase, improved his record to two-for-six while banking $69,300 to boost his earnings to $125,755.
“He’s actually a little more headstrong in the mornings working than he is in the afternoon,” Hendricks said. “He gets very relaxed in the afternoon and that’s a big positive. That’s why we thought maybe he could get it done.”
In the Turf Express, California Flag flashed his speed leaving the gate to take control, then drew away with ease rounding the turn, cruising to a 4 ½-length victory under a hand ride by jockey Joe Talamo.
California Flag, owned by Hi Card Ranch and trained by Brian Koriner, earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with an impressive win in the Morvich Handicap opening day of the Oak Tree meeting. The 4-year-old then set a rapid pace before tiring and finishing tenth in the Breeders’ Cup, but he was never threatened in the Turf Express while covering six furlongs in 1:08.81.
"I don't think I've ever won a race that easily,” Talamo said. “When a horse is running that fast and that good for you, there's no sense using him up. Just as soon save him for next time. If he would have been able to go the first quarter in :22 and change, I figured he'd have been great — but :23, that's like :25 for any other horse. He does everything with such ease. In the Breeders' Cup there was really nothing I could do with Mr. Nightlinger in there. But today he was just unbelievable. Brian did such a great job freshening him up and getting him ready."
California Flag, a homebred, won for the third time in his last four starts and fifth time in 13 lifetime races, banking $90,000 to boost his earnings to $283,216. He paid $5.40, $3.80 and $3. Racketeer returned $11.40 and $5.40, while the show payoff on Delta Storm was $4.
“The horse is great and he’s fresh,” Koriner said. “It’s hard to believe he won so easy against some pretty nice horses. The horse ran great and I don’t think Joe even asked him, the last sixteenth of a mile he was standing up on him and letting him cruise. When this horse is good, he’s good. I really think if we didn’t give Joe instructions to run off at the Breeders’ Cup, it might have been a whole different ball game.”
The Turf Festival concludes Sunday with a pair of Grade I, $500,000 races — The Matriarch and the Hollywood Derby. First post time is 12:30 p.m.