ARCADIA, Calif. — George Krikorian’s homebred Mucho Unusual, the lone California-bred in the field, dictated terms throughout and proved best in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes, winning by one and a quarter length while providing jockey Juan Hernandez with his first career Grade I victory and his third win on the day. Trained by Tim Yakteen, Mucho Unusual, a 4-year-old daughter of Mucho Macho Man, got a mile and one quarter on turf in 2:00.19.
“It’s super satisfying, words can’t describe how satisfying it is. This mare is unbelievable, her mother, Not Unusual is a great producer, it was great to get a Grade I win on the page for her. It’s very gratifying. She’s been such a hard-knocking filly. She’s been knocking on the door with Grade 1’s, so to pull this out is amazing. She’s very easy to train and very straight forward. She makes my job easy, trainer Yakteen explained.
“I’m just thrilled for the whole team. My hat goes off to all of the hard work that Starwood Farm does. I want to give a big thank you to Tony Burton, the Farm Manager, and to the whole team out there. This is as big of a win as I’ve ever had. I haven’t had very many Grade 1 wins.”
In hand as the field crossed under the wire for the first time, Mucho Unusual enjoyed a one length advantage over eventual fourth place finisher Tonahutu up the backside, increased her lead to two lengths turning for home and was never seriously challenged while holding Maxim Rate safe in a visually impressive win.
Most recently a close third at 1-2 versus state-breds in the one mile turf Solana Beach Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 15, Mucho Unusual, who was second in her only other try at a mile and a quarter, was off at 3-1 in a field of six fillies and mares and paid $8.80, $4.40 and $2.40.
With the winner’s share of $180,000, Mucho Unusual, who like her jockey picked up her first Grade I win, increased her earnings to $702,715. Out of Krikorian’s Unusual Heat mare Not Unusual, Mucho Unusual notched her third stakes win and improved her overall record to 16-5-3-4.
Maxim Rate, who was a close third in the early going behind the winner and Tonahutu, was off at 5-2 and paid $3.80 and $2.60 while finishing a length in front of 7-5 favorite Lady Prancealot.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Lady Prancealot finished with her ears pinned but couldn’t make the necessary late gain and had to settle for third money while returning $2.10 to show.
The lone Cal-bred in the field, Mucho Unusual, in addition to winning with authority, galloped out strong following the finish.
“My filly ran very sharp and she was really comfortable in the race. They let me go to the lead easily, so I took it, and then the rest of the race the filly did by herself. She’s a really nice filly. When I asked her to run at the stretch, she responded really well,” jockey Juan Hernandez said.
“It means a lot. It is my first Grade 1, I always wanted to win a Grade 1, I always tried really hard, but I couldn’t, today was the day. To win these races it’s all about opportunity, I want to thank the owners and trainer for this big opportunity.”
Fractions on the race were 24.29, 49.52, 1:14.07 and 1:37.28.
The Rodeo Drive Stakes is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, with the winner to receive a fees-paid berth into the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland on Nov. 7.
Press Release Photo: Mucho Unusual. Credit: Benoit Photos