January 31, 2023

Speaking Scout gets final word in Hollywood Derby; Liguria, Turn on the Jets dominate

Speaking Scout and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Speaking Scout was collared late in the Oct. 29 Twilight Derby (G2), but in Saturday’s $402,500 Hollywood Derby (G1), he was the one pouncing in the final strides. One of a trio for trainer Graham Motion, the 8.20-1 shot toppled a few better-fancied rivals.

Hollywood Derby (G1)

Bettors forecast an East Coast-based winner, just not one who’d prepped on this circuit already. The market focused instead on two new invaders at Del Mar, sending off Wit as the 1.90-1 favorite and Celestial City at 3.10-1. The 3.60-1 Cabo Spirit, who beat Speaking Scout last out, ranked as the leading local.

Jockey Juan Hernandez, reuniting with Speaking Scout here, timed his move to perfection. His initial position didn’t appear promising, though, lagging near the back of the pack through a slow pace. Motion’s longshot Evan Harlan led in leisurely fractions of :24.51, :49.86, and 1:14.10 on the firm turf.

Spycatcher, still a maiden but Grade 2-placed, attended the pacesetter and took over turning for home. The stalking Handy Dandy encountered trouble as he tried to launch his bid, getting bumped and having to alter course for room.

Meanwhile, Speaking Scout was threading his way through the field and emerging on the scene. Getting the jump on Wit who was finally hitting gear out wide, Speaking Scout pounced on Spycatcher to score by three-quarters of a length. Spycatcher salvaged runner-up honors in a photo with Wit, and Handy Dandy checked in a further 1 1/4 lengths astern in fourth.

Cabo Spirit failed to pack a punch in fifth, followed by St Anthony; Evan Harlan and fellow Motion pupil Script; Clutch Hitter; and Celestial City, who broke slowly, curiously steered wide into the clubhouse turn, and trailed throughout in a lackluster display.

Speaking Scout toured 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.34 and rewarded his fans with $18.40. The $3,000 bargain-basement yearling has now earned $500,668 from his 14-4-4-0 line.

“He didn’t break all that sharp today,” Hernandez said, “but he put himself in a good spot and I was happy. He’s an intelligent horse. When it came time for him to switch leads, he did it, and I had faith that he was going to run good from there. I was just the pilot; he did all the work.”

“He saved our day,” Motion said. “I really left it up to Juan; he had ridden him before. He’s such a good rider and he gave him a really good, patient ride. The timing was so good with the Santa Anita race. Alice Clapham, my assistant, has had him here the whole meet. She really deserves the credit.”

Acquired by Eclipse after his debut second at Colonial Downs for trainer Carlos Munoz, Speaking Scout broke his maiden in an off-the-turf affair at Delaware Park. The son of Mr Speaker just missed in last December’s Pulpit S. on the Gulfstream Park turf, but began to look pretty exposed in stakes through much of his sophomore campaign. He was unplaced in the Kitten’s Joy (G3) and Audubon S., an unlucky fourth when the gap wouldn’t come in time in the Kent (G3), a distant fourth in the off-the-turf Bald Eagle Derby, and seventh in the Dueling Grounds Derby (G3).

Speaking Scout turned the proverbial corner in the Oct. 1 Hawthorne Derby, driving to a five-length rout. The bay gelding followed up with his fine second, versus better, in the Twilight Derby, and reached a new career high on Saturday.

Bred by Mike Abraham in Kentucky, Speaking Scout initially sold for $10,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November before slipping to $3,000 at OBS October. Out of the stakes-placed Miss Scout, by Pleasant Tap, he is the first Grade 1 performer through the first four dams on his page.

Jimmy Durante (G3)

Although Chad Brown didn’t have a contender in the Hollywood Derby, he still collected a graded stakes on the undercard courtesy of Alpha Delta Stables’ Liguria. The 7-5 favorite was much the best in the $103,500 Jimmy Durante (G3) despite navigating a wide trip from post 11.

A full sister to two-time Rodeo Drive (G1) heroine Avenge, Liguria was coming off an up-in-time maiden win at Aqueduct. Flavien Prat was back aboard for this stakes bow at Del Mar, and did the best he could to work out a sensible passage. Ground loss was unavoidable on both turns, but Liguria had cover on the backstretch as she bided her time about midway down the field.

Up front, the 16-1 Ami Please carved out splits of :22.52, :47.33, and 1:12.25 and continued to barrel along into the stretch. Liguria then rolled into contention and asserted in a decisive 2 1/4–length victory. The War Front filly negotiated the mile in 1:36.16 to advance her record to 3-2-1-0, $123,250.

“She was traveling well, and I was confident,” Prat said. “When I rode her in New York, she showed me a good turn of foot. I thought I’d get it again today, and it worked out that way.” 

Decorated My Life, unhurried early in her U.S. debut, finished well to snatch second from Sell the Dream. Ami Please was just edged out of the placings in fourth. Ragtime Rose, Thebestisyettobe, Pallotta Sisters, Showgirl Lynne B, Quickly Park It, Bizzy Gal, Jordan, and ever-trailing Lollipop Gumdrop rounded out the order of finish.

Liguria was bred by Tada Nobutaka in Kentucky and sold for $275,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Her dam, the Woodman mare Lerici, is responsible for Grade 3-placed multiple stakes winner Lira (herself the dam of stakes scorer Lia Marina) in addition to the aforementioned Avenge. Liguria and Avenge have an Irish Group 3-placed full brother, Pistoletto.

Stormy Liberal S.

Going Global has retired, but her connections might have another star by the same sire, Mehmas. Sophomore turf sprinter Turn on the Jets did just that when drubbing older horses in the inaugural running of the $101,500 Stormy Liberal S. in his stakes debut. Lane Way was a key scratch, but he would have needed to motor to beat Turn on the Jets here.

Trained by Phil D’Amato for the partnership of Benowitz Family Trust and three of the Going Global group – CYBT, Michael Nentwig, and Ray Pagano – the Irish import was a course-and-distance winner in his American premiere Aug. 18. Turn on the Jets subsequently found about 6 1/2 furlongs on the Santa Anita downhill a bit too far, but he still ran well when placing in a pair of allowances.

The cutback to five furlongs at Del Mar was exactly what Turn on the Jets wanted. Traveling beautifully a couple of lengths off an opening quarter in :22.01, the 2.30-1 favorite cut the corner and hit the front by the half in :44.18. Turn on the Jets then opened up by 2 1/4 lengths in :55.75 with Hernandez.

“He got a great trip,” D’Amato said. “He just slid right up the rail. We were looking to run him in an allowance race, but it didn’t go, so this was the only spot and it worked out well. He’s a horse we always thought highly of. He was a little unlucky at Santa Anita, but he proved best today.”

Whatmakessammyrun prevailed in the blanket finish for second, nipping Sumter, who was in turn a neck up on Rebel Posse. Next came the troubled Coulthard, early leader Get Back Goldie, Respect the Code, and Hot Box. Sigiloso was scratched along with Lane Way.

Bred by Mr. D. Byrne in Ireland, Turn on the Jets won on his fourth attempt in his homeland for trainer Jack Davison. That score on the Dundalk Polytrack last December turned out to be his final appearance before venturing stateside. His resume now reads 8-3-1-1, $142,912.

The chestnut gelding was produced by the Dandy Man mare Chiclet, from the further family of Group 1 winner Pether’s Moon.