During his Southern California sojourn earlier in his training career, John Gosden won a division of the 1983 Hollywood Derby with the filly Royal Heroine, who would defeat males the following year in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Mile over the same turf course. Thirty years later, the English-based Gosden shipped Seek Again to plunder the last-ever running of the Grade 1, $251,000 Hollywood Derby.
With Corey Nakatani delivering a daring rail-skimming ride, the Juddmonte Farms homebred burst through to dominate his stakes debut by 1 1/2 lengths. The progressive handicapper, who was sent off as the co-fourth choice at 5-1, covered 1 1/4 miles on the firm turf in 2:00 3/5 and returned $12.40 to win.
Rookie Sensation ranked as the slight 3-1 second choice after his impressive win in his stakes debut in the November 1 Twilight Derby. But for the first time in his brief career, the John Shirreffs pupil took the early lead and posted steady fractions of :24 2/5, :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5. Dry Summer, Irish Surf, and the rail-hugging Gervinho were his nearest pursuers, while Seek Again was patiently handled farther back, third from last. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's duo of Admiral Kitten, the 3-1 favorite, and Amen Kitten bided their time at the rear.
Rounding the far turn, Nakatani committed to an inside path for Seek Again, who was clearly full of run. The move paid off as he advanced smartly, and Gervinho shifted out enough for Seek Again to cut the corner.
Rookie Sensation still showed the way at the top of the stretch, but Seek Again bravely threaded the needle and got through to the favorite's inside. Accelerating on a dime once assured of room, the Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown slammed the field in short order.
"I was extremely confident," Nakatani said. "Any time you see the Juddmonte colors and a horse shipping from England, you know they're going to have a big turn of foot and it's just a matter if they can handle the tighter turns. He seemed to handle it. (Gosden) said he had trained him on the left handed tracks before shipping him here. I was very excited to get the opportunity to get to ride again for Juddmonte and try to win a Grade 1 for them.
"My main thing was to try to get him into a rhythm, get him to break decently and get him in a rhythm. (Gosden) told me he had missed the break a couple of times and left himself with way too much to do. My main concern was to try to have a spot to run at and not get him stopped."
Les Reynolds, Gosden's assistant, commented on their concerns going into the race.
"We didn't clear quarantine until Saturday morning, so it's not been ideal," Reynolds said. "We just jogged around once Saturday. I thought he might need a couple of more days, but we were always happy with him.
"(Nakatani) gave him a great ride. We were worried there wasn't going to be any pace, but there was enough pace, wasn't there? The boss (Gosden) was worried that he doesn't do anything too quick, so if they crawled he just said to sit handier.
"I told Corey to just make sure he changed leads because he might be a little inexperienced against these guys. But he did it well and I'm very, very pleased."
Admiral Kitten and Amen Kitten rallied to take the minor awards. Admiral Kitten grabbed second by three-quarters of a length from the Ramseys' other son of Kitten's Joy. Amen Kitten was a half-length up on Gervinho, who edged Rookie Sensation for fourth in a photo. Rounding out the order of finish were Jack Milton; Infinite Magic and Dry Summer, who dead-heated for seventh; and Irish Surf. Dice Flavor was scratched.
Seek Again boosted his bankroll to $219,027 from his 8-4-2-0 line. A debut maiden winner at Newmarket as a juvenile, the chestnut finished second in a Leicester conditions race in his only other outing of 2012. The winner that day, Van Der Neer, went on to place in the Racing Post Trophy and Two Thousand Guineas.
Out of action for 10 months, Seek Again captured a Newmarket handicap in his belated three-year-old reappearance on August 15. He has been busy ever since. After finishing second in a handicap over Kempton's Polytrack on August 28, he wheeled back for a class hike at the same venue September 7 and checked in fourth. Seek Again next tried the historic Cambridgeshire Handicap versus older horses on September 28 and finished a commendable fifth of 31, beaten a total of 4 1/2 lengths. Back against his own age group for an October 12 handicap at York, he prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths, and booked his ticket to Hollywood.
Seek Again is following in the hoofsteps of his dam, the Danehill mare Light Jig, who prospered after leaving Europe for Southern California. Twice stakes-placed in France for Pascal Bary, Light Jig developed into a Grade 1 winner for the late Bobby Frankel. She earned her signature win in the 2004 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita, but she was also two-for-two over the Hollywood turf, including a victory in the Beverly Hills Handicap.
Light Jig has produced Group 3 hero Treble Jig, a three-quarter brother to Seek Again, being by Speightstown's sire Gone West. Treble Jig is a Jebel Ali specialist, having won all four of his career stakes at that U.A.E. track. He has won the past two runnings of both the Jebel Ali Stakes and the Jebel Ali Mile, which was upgraded to Group 3 status for its January 25 renewal. The only horse to turn that double, Treble Jig also set the track record in his Jebel Ali Mile repeat.
Seek Again's second dam is Group 2 heroine Nashmeel, runner-up in both the Yellow Ribbon and Hollywood's Matriarch in 1987. She is responsible for stakes winners Lynton and Battle Dore, the latter multiple Group 3-placed, in addition to Light Jig. Nashmeel's other descendants include Group 3-placed stakes scorer Daring Tiger and current multiple stakes-placed juvenile Riverboat Springs.
Reynolds revealed that Seek Again will stay stateside. Plans call for him to ship out to Bill Mott's barn on Monday.
"He could be a big horse for Bill Mott next year," Reynolds added. "He's been a horse that's been slow to (come to) himself. He just took a while to get going."