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AUBURN, Wash. - Without chief nemesis Forener in the field, Hollywood Harbor made short work of five rivals in the $50,000 Premio Esmeralda on Sunday at Emerald Downs, coasting to a 5 1/4-length victory in the season's first open stakes race for 2-year-old colts and geldings.
Hollywood Harbor, who finished two lengths behind Forener in a maiden race and then won the restricted Strong Ruler Stakes by five lengths in his second start, set the pace through fractions of 21.20 seconds, 43.80, and 55.60 and finished six furlongs in 1:09. Rescue Plan chased the winner throughout to finish second, and Koala Beach was third.
Ridden by Jose Zunino for trainer Chris Stenslie, Hollywood Harbor paid $2.80. He earned $24,750 for owners Jody Peets of Issaquah, Wash., and John Holmes of Shoreline, Wash., increasing his career earnings to $45,351 in three starts. A Washington-bred son of the Seeking the Gold stallion Harbor the Gold, Hollywood Harbor was a $21,000 yearling purchase at the 2008 Washington summer sale.
Forener, expected to be the wagering favorite Sunday after scintillating victories in his first two starts, was scratched after owner Keith Swagerty reached an agreement to sell a 60 percent interest in the horse to out-of-state buyers. Swagerty said Forener would be transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in New York and likely would race next in the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 7 at Saratoga.
Purchased for $5,000 at the 2008 Washington summer yearling sale, Forener is by Lost Solider from the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Bold Pegasus. McLaughlin trained Lost Soldier, a son of Danzig, during his racing career.
Swagerty, who declined to reveal the sales price or identify his new partners, said the deal began percolating last week. He said he fielded offers from several interested parties.
"Negotiations were stressful," he said. "We had offers for more money in my pocket, but the others wanted 100 percent of the horse. This gives me a chance to follow the horse, even if it's not here."
Forener, who was trained by Vann Belvoir at Emerald Downs, won a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race by two lengths on June 21. He won an allowance race July 19 by nine lengths, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.
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