Victor's Cry takes GI Shoemaker Mile
By Art Wilson
INGLEWOOD - Corey Nakatani, who left Southern California earlier this year for a fresh start, enjoyed a happy homecoming Monday when he rode 21-1 long shot Victor's Cry to a victory in the $250,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park. Nakatani, a 39-year-old Covina native who's won numerous Southland riding titles, finished a strong second (59-49) to Terry Thompson at the Oaklawn Park meet that concluded in late April while riding 113 fewer races. He's currently based in Kentucky, but that doesn't mean he's entrenched there.
"If the horses bring us back to California, we'll be here," Nakatani said after guiding Victor's Cry to a head victory over Karelian, who shipped in from Kentucky and was the 9-5 favorite. "I'd love to come back. California is home."
Nakatani, who's ridden such equine standouts as Lava Man, Lit de Justice, Serena's Song, Rock Hard Ten and Sweet Catomine during a career that began in fall 1988 at Caliente Race Track in Mexico, knows the recipe for success in Southern California.
"If I got the opportunity to ride for the outfits you need to ride for, the Doug O'Neills and the John Sadlers, the Bob Bafferts," he said. "If you rode for those outfits, you can come back and ride for them all."
He rode for Eoin Harty in this year's Shoemaker, the same trainer who put him aboard Colonel John for a victory in the 2008 Santa Anita Derby. The two enjoyed the same type of success Monday as Nakatani won the stake for
3-year-olds and up for the fifth time, one less than Bill Shoemaker had in a race that was called the Premiere Handicap until 1989 when it was renamed after the late Hall of Fame rider.
Harty, who picked up his first Shoemaker victory, thought he had a solid chance to win going into the race but wasn't so sure when the field of nine turf specialists charged home through the stretch.
"I was happy because I thought we were going to run third," Harty said. "Then I saw them stopping and I thought he was going to run second. Then I saw they were really stopping and I just couldn't believe it.
"I entered to win. I thought on paper it might set up well for his style of running, but this is a Grade I and these things are hard to win. I would have been happy with a piece of it."
Nakatani had Victor's Cry, a 5-year-old son of Street Cry, in eighth after the first half-mile and fourth at the top of the stretch before they kicked it in gear and overtook the favorite in the last few jumps. Mr Gruff, who set the pace in the one-mile race with quick fractions of 23.08, 46.05 and 1:09.20, gamely stuck around for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Karelian.
The winning time of 1:32.88 was one of the fastest since the stake's distance was shortened to a mile in 1984. Fastness, who won the Shoemaker in 1996 under Nakatani, and Megan's Interco (1994) share the stakes and course record of 1:32 3/5.
"Turning for home I felt like all I needed was a spot to run," Nakatani said. "Right on that turn they kind of squirted away and I cut the corner, was able to swing out and I waited a little bit to make sure that when I did call on him that he was there. He made a strong move from the three-eighths pole to get position, and obviously to be able to win the race I had to try to time it as best I could."