Ultimate Eagle wins Hollywood Derby
A day after winning the $250,000 Citation Handicap with favored Jeranimo on Saturday at Hollywood Park, owner B.J. Wright and trainer Mike Pender struck again in the $250,000 Hollywood Derby Sunday, when Ultimate Eagle, a 14-1 outsider, completed the 2011 Turf Festival with a wire-to-wire victory under jockey Martin Pedroza.
The win was the fourth in a row, all since he was switched from the synthetic track to grass, for the 3-year-old Mizzen Mast colt out of the Captain Bodgit mare Letithappencaptain and came six weeks after he had wired the field at 34-1 in the Grade II Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita.
Pushing his earnings to $329,800 in six starts, Ultimate Eagle paid $31.40, $13 and $7.60. Finishing second was Imagining, making his first graded stakes start for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Western Aristocrat ran third.
“It’s miraculous considering where this horse came from,” said Pender. “He had colic as a 2-year-old and was basically pronounced dead on the table. Somehow, by an act of God, he was brought back to life.
“Ultimately I would like to get him back on dirt. He trains so much better on dirt. He really hasn’t handled synthetic surfaces all that well. We’ll take it a day at a time from here.”
Owner B.J. Wright, who said Ultimate Eagle would have been their Triple Crown candidate this year if not for the colic, is also optimistic about Ultimate Eagle’s chances racing on dirt.
“He’ll run as good or better on the dirt,” said Wright. “We feel with his stride and the way he runs, he looks like he should be able to handle dirt equally with the turf, if not better.”
At this point, it looks like the sky’s the limit for the “miracle horse.”
To watch an interview with Wright following the race, click on the video below.