The Lakewood Handicap was just what the doctor ordered Sunday at Los Alamitos. . Racing from post number three, EG High Desert Farms’ Dr Jess won the 350-yard dash by a nose while spoiling He Looks Hot’s bid to win his first start since winning the 2014 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.
Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Yanet Rodriguez, Dr Jess broke on top, but lost the lead for about 100 yards before coming back to win at the wire. The gelding by Mr Jess Perry and out of 2007 Golden State Million Futurity winner Eye For Corona earned $8,250 for the win to take his career earnings to $41,115. The start of the Lakewood was delayed after Foosilame became fractious in the gate.
“(Dr Jess) got very nervous and he looked a little down after that happened,” Rios Ayala said. “But he broke nicely and we had the lead. (He Looks Hot) got after me and started taking off, but my horse finished really strongly and got there first.”
It was a good weekend for Rios Ayala, as the young rider also won Saturday’s James Smith Memorial Handicap aboard Freakish.
Dr Jess, meanwhile, showed once again why he could be one of the top older horses in 2016. Bred by Julianna Hawn Holt, Dr Jess won his trial to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship earlier this year. He only managed a fourth place finish when competing in the Irvine Handicap in his previous start.
Rodriguez, who also ponies her horses to the gate on race night, was anxious while watching the activity in the starting gate.
“I got worried when they pulled him out of the gate because some horses don’t come back after that,” she said. “That’s what happened in the last handicap (Irvine). He didn’t come back. He just played around. I’m happy that he turned it around. I couldn’t see him racing from behind the gate. I saw that he broke clean and then I just heard the call of the race. I couldn’t see much but thankfully he went all the way through.”
Trained by Scott Willoughby for owner Ed Allred, He Looks Hot ran a tremendous race considering this was his first outing since December 14, 2014. The gelding by Walk Thru Fire out of stakes winner Look Her Over had colic surgery in 2015, but looked good in several workouts in preparation for this race. He Looks Hot could meet Dr Jess again in a couple of months. Both horses are eligible to compete in the trials to the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity on June 12. He Looks Hot earned $3,375 to take his career bankroll to $894,345.
Stanley Watkins’ Jiffy James finished third and was followed by Blistering Speed, First Down Tiny Man, Discontent, and Foosilame.