INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- A return visit to Southern California for Monday's $250,000 Shoemaker Mile provided jockey Corey Nakatani with his biggest win of the year aboard the long shot Victor's Cry.
Nakatani, who rode in Southern California until last October and has ridden in Arkansas and Kentucky earlier this year, scored his first graded stakes win of 2010 aboard Victor's Cry in the Grade 1 Shoemaker.
Nakatani needed a clear path in the final quarter-mile, and a willing closer in Victory's Cry ($44.40), to catch 9-5 favorite Karelian right at the wire and win by a head.
"I tried to time it as best I could," Nakatani said.
Victor's Cry, who races for Bob and Michele Billings's Equilete Stable and trainer Eoin Harty, ran a mile on turf in 1:32.88.
Victor's Cry was in the rear half of the field in the first half-mile, racing behind pacesetter Mr Gruff, who set an early pace of 23.08 and 46.05 seconds. After six furlongs in 1:09.20, Victor's Cry was still sixth, 3 1/4 lengths off the lead. Nakatani was able to find space between horses entering the stretch and benefited when the pacesetters began to falter in the final furlong.
"Turning for home, I thought I needed a spot to run," Nakatani said. "They kind of squirted away. I waited a while so when I called on him he was there. My job was to keep him out of trouble."
Karelian, who won stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Keeneland earlier this year, was unlucky to lose, and finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of pacesetter Mr Gruff, who was racing beyond 6 1/2 furlongs on turf for the first time in his career.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano said he thought Karelian held on.
"I thought I'd beat him," he said. "I saw [Victor's Cry] was coming, but my horse tried to the end."
Mr Gruff was followed by Gallant Son, Golden Balls, Global Hunter, Compari, Tangled Tango, and Blue Chagall. Compari's loss marked the end of a six-race winning streak that included four stakes wins. In the Shoemaker, Compari broke from the outside in the field of nine, raced wide on the first turn and was steadied on the second turn.
"He just had a rough trip from the get-go," trainer Marty Jones said. "Sometimes that happens."
Harty said the Grade 2 American Handicap on July 4 could be Victor's Cry's next start. The 5-year-old horse, by Street Cry, has won 5 of 17 starts and $350,633.