INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Mast Track was a stranger to jockey Tyler Baze until he climbed aboard the colt for Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. By the time they reached the backstretch, Baze felt like he was aboard an old friend.
Allowed an uncontested lead, Mast Track led throughout the Grade 1 Gold Cup, pulling a 10-1 upset in Hollywood Park's biggest race for older horses.
Until Wednesday of race week, Baze thought he would be left out of the Gold Cup. He was expected to ride three-time winner Lava Man, who was declared from the race a week in advance. When Bobby Frankel, the owner, trainer and breeder of Mast Track, needed a jockey to ride Mast Track at 113 pounds, Baze earned the call.
"I didn't know the horse," Baze said. "I've been watching my weight for the last two days. It was worth it. This is my biggest win."
Mast Track ($23.60) won his first stakes in the Gold Cup. A 4-year-old colt by Mizzen Mast, Mast Track had finished fifth in the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes last December and fifth in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on turf on May 26. The Gold Cup was his first start at 1 1/4 miles.
Baze went to post with one instruction from Frankel - take Mast Track to the front. Mast Track set an early pace of 24.41 and 48.88 seconds, leading by as many as 2 1/2 lengths on the backstretch.
"When they went the first quarter-mile, I had a good feeling," said Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's top California assistant. "Then after three-quarters, I said, 'That's it.'"
None of Mast Track's eight rivals challenged him through the final half-mile. Baze kept after Mast Track through the final furlong, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Go Between, the 2-1 favorite. Mast Track ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.37, a track record.
"At the three-eighths pole, he switched leads and jumped into the bridle," Baze said. "At the top of the stretch, he was really running."
Student Council, the winner of the Grade 1 Pimlico Special in May, stalked the pace for most of the race and finished third. The race lacked the leading older male in California. Heatseeker, the 123-pound topweight in the Gold Cup, was withdrawn on Friday because of a swollen left front ankle.
Mast Track has won 5 of 10 starts and $614,622. He began his career in the Midwest before moving to Frankel's California stable last fall. Ascanio said he is a rare top horse that Frankel has not taken to his New York stable.
"This feels good," Ascanio said. "It's my best horse."
Hollywood Park, 10th Race - June 28, 2008