When Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez and the personable and peripatetic "Jersey Joe" Bravo leave the New York area to go out of town to ride stakes horses, check their bags for flip flops and sunscreen.
With the success the duo showed at the fall meeting at Del Mar, they may be taking up full-time residence at the seaside track.
Velazquez scored a Breeders' Cup double in early November when he piloted Forever Unbridled to win the B.C. Distaff and then rode World Approval to win the B.C. Mile.
After celebrating his 45th birthday on Friday, Velazquez took a Thanksgiving weekend trip back to the beach side track to ride Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Mo Town in the $300,000, Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at a mile and furlong on Del Mar's turf course.
Going back a year, Mo Town's connections thought they had a Triple Crown contender in the making when the the son of Uncle Mo from the Bernardini mare Grazie Mist won Aqueduct's Grade 2 Remsen on the main track.
After five unsuccessful tries on dirt, New York-based trainer Tony Dutrow shifted gears and sent the son of Uncle Mo out on Oct. 12 to win an 8-1/2 furlong allowance race on Belmont's inner turf course by a convincing, 6-1/2 lengths.
When asked about his shipping West to run in the Hollywood Derby, Dutrow said, “It was a Grade 1 race and our horse had a chance. I just felt we had to be here.”
Dutrow had to wait a while before he could think about celebrating a Del Mar win. “I knew at the top of the stretch Mo Town had a lot of work to do — and I'm glad he was up to it,” he said.
After breaking last in the field of nine, Mo Town raced near the rear of the field until Velazquez made his move approaching the far turn where he took Mo Town four wide into the Del Mar home stretch.
Mo Town made the lead at the 16th pole and got home to win by one length over Channel Maker and Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano.
The running time of 1:46.36 over a firm turf course established a new stakes record in the race that was historically run at the now defunct Hollywood Park.
A delighted Velazquez said after the race, “I got to try something different with this horse today. I've been trying to get him to settle. He broke slow so I didn't panic with him. I let him run right along. Then, when I asked him, he responded very well.”
The Hollywood Derby win was Mo Town's fourth from nine starts. The $180,000 winner's check will put him over a half million dollars in purse earnings.
Two races later, Long Branch, N.J.'s well-traveled Bravo turned patience into victory when the Pennsylvania-bred Daddy Is a Legend came from 10th place in a field of 12 to win the $102,415, Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at a mile on the infield lawn.
The daughter of Scat Daddy from the Benchmark mare Randie's Legend was bred by HnR Northhaft Horseracing LLC, a California-based nursery with operations in the Keystone State and Kentucky.
Racing in the colors of Jim and Susan Hill for trainer George Weaver, Daddy Is a Legend scored for the second straight time.
She entered the Durante fresh from a handy win in a maiden special at Keeneland in late October. Her Durante win earned her $60,000 and increased her earnings to $107,910.
That sum put her well on the way to covering the $160,000 the Hill's bid to take her out of the Keeneland September 2016 sale.
Bravo took his filly five wide coming out of the far turn and switched his stick to his left hand. He then urged her on to gain the lead late and get up to win by a length over the New York-based Klaravich Stables' Data Dependent, a Chad Brown trainee ridden by Castellano.
Sporting his usual post victory grin, Bravo said, “I was following Chad Brown's horse (Data Dependent) around there. When she went, I went right behind her.
“When we hit the stretch I tipped (Daddy Is a Legend) out and it was bye-bye. It was her race from there.”
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