Texas Ryano dusts ‘Sugar in Hollywood Turf Cup

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November 25th, 2016

Warren B. Williamson’s homebred Texas Ryano had been getting progressively closer to his nemesis Ashleyluvssugar, and finally mastered him in Friday’s $200,345 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar. As though expending pent-up frustration, the Carla Gaines trainee drew off to defeat the 4-5 favorite by an emphatic 3 1/4 lengths.

On paper, the late-running Texas Ryano appeared to be at a disadvantage with a slow pace on tap. But jockey Joe Talamo got the 2-1 second choice to secure a much better early position than usual. Instead of having a mountain to climb, the son of Curlin had a manageable molehill.

Ashleyluvssugar was the likeliest pacesetter in the small field, but when Royal Albert Hall decided to go forward, the odds-on choice opted to prompt. Flamboyant stalked on the inside, and Texas Ryano kept the leaders in striking range in fourth.

Despite attending leisurely fractions of :24.60, :49.86, 1:14.85, and 1:39.81, Ashleyluvssugar didn’t find a great deal as he launched his challenge and headed Royal Albert Hall rounding the far turn. Instead, it was Texas Ryano who was firing on the outside. Straightening for home, there was no suspense left, and the big chestnut strode clear to finish 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.92.

The one-paced Ashleyluvssugar held second by 1 1/4 lengths from Flamboyant, who had to await room turning into the stretch momentarily but couldn’t be considered unlucky. Flamboyant edged Power Foot and Quick Casablanca in a three-way photo for third, and Royal Albert Hall trailed. Ralis was scratched.

While Texas Ryano’s only prior stakes victory had come in last fall’s King Pellinore, and he was eighth in the 2015 Hollywood Turf Cup, he’d been on the upgrade in the second half of this season. The five-year-old was a one-length third to Ashleyluvssugar in the August 20 Del Mar H. (G2), a half-length second to him in the October 2 John Henry Turf Championship (G2), and a head away from catching him for fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). His resume now reads 18-5-3-3, $438,355.

Texas Ryano is the latest graded performer produced by noted matron Blending Element. A Grade 3 winner on the racecourse herself, she is responsible for a total of seven stakes horses. Five are stakes winners – aside from Texas Ryano, they’re Grade 3 victress Tiz Elemental, Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Holladay Road, Tiz a Blend, and Excessive Blend – along with the Grade 2-placed duo of American Blend and War Element.

Blending Element has a fascinating pedigree that may explain her unexpected success as a broodmare. Her sire, Great Commotion, counts as his second dam a full sister to the great *Vaguely Noble. Blending Element traces to Charming Alibi, the dam of Hall of Famer Dahlia (by none other than *Vaguely Noble). Thus Blending Element replicates Dahlia’s pedigree within the third generation of her own.

Quotes from Del Mar

Jockey Joe Talamo on Texas Ryano: “I was sitting there loaded and I was smiling. Couldn’t have had a better trip. The only thing that concerned me was the fact that we were going slow and I didn’t want the favorite (Ashleyluvssugar, who was second for most of the trip) to slip away in the lane. So I was up closer and it worked out just right. He ran big.”

Winning trainer Carla Gaines: “We kinda, sorta, unintentionally used the ($4 million Breeders Cup Turf) as a prep for this. We were eligible, he’s our homebred and we don’t get an opportunity like that very often, so we went for it knowing it was a tough spot. He got left at the gate and was so far back in that race he didn’t have a chance, so this was kind of redemptive in a sense. The race didn’t go exactly as I thought, I thought Ashleyluvssugar would be by himself on the lead. But it worked out for us.” 

Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens on Ashleyluvssugar, second as the 4-5 favorite: “Long campaign; it finally caught up with him. He ran well today, but Joe’s horse (Texas Ryano) ran great. My horse is gallant; he always tries. He’s dead honest. They told me that his share (second-place in the race is worth $40,000) makes him a millionaire ($1,007,504). That’s not bad.”

Hall of Famer Mike Smith on third-placer Flamboyant: “He was just going through the motions out there. I’d like to tell you he gave me 100% today, but I can’t. I’m not even sure he gave me 80 (%).”

Photo courtesy of Benoit