Milwakee Brew winner of the 2002 Santa Anita Handicap.
Don't forget the Seabiscuit audio bobblehead giveaway on Big 'Cap day at Santa Anita!
By winning the 66th Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday (March 1), Milwaukee Brew can join a very select group of Thoroughbreds: Those who've won Santa Anita's marquee race more than once. John Henry is the only horse currently gracing that list, though technically even he failed to cross the finish line on top in two runnings of the Big 'Cap.
He won the 1 1/4 mile race by a length in 1981, then was placed first in 1982 after Perrault, who finished first by a nose, was disqualified for interference. "People still call it controversial," said Ron McAnally, John Henry's Hall of Fame trainer. "But even Perrault's people, including (trainer) Charlie (Whittingham) agreed later that their horse's number should have come down."
Milwaukee Brew, a 6-year-old son of 1984 Breeders' Cup Classic champion Wild Again, is the 13th Big 'Cap winner aiming for a double. Milwaukee Brew is trained by Bobby Frankel, who is seeking to become the first trainer to win back-to-back runnings of the Big 'Cap since Richard Mandella won with Siphon in 1997 and Malek in 1998. Milwaukee Brew has won six of his 21 career starts and earned $2,186,612 for his owner, Stronach Stable, though he occasionally has been overshadowed. His most recent victory came in the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park last June, but he finished his 2002 campaign by running third, behind Volponi and Medaglia d'Oro, in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and opened his 2003 season by running second to Congaree in the San Antonio Handicap.
It was hoped that Frankel-trained Medaglia d'Oro, a 4-year-old who captured the Strub Stakes on Feb. 1, would contest the Big 'Cap, but Frankel felt the 124 lbs. assigned was too high and will pass the race. Also expected to run are Congaree, who won the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 2, the Mandella trained duo of Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect, Piensa Sonando, and Sligo Bay.
Ron McAnally, who also won the Big 'Cap in 1996 with Mr. Purple in addition to twice with John Henry, will send out Chilean-bred Piensa Sonando, who was fourth in the San Antonio, for the 2003 renewal. "You have to have a good horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap," McAnally said, "let alone win it twice."
Since the race first was contested for purse money of $1 million in 1986, Best Pal (1992), Urgent Request (1995) and Malek (1998) are Big 'Cap winners who have been unable to win it again. Best Pal ran fifth in 1993 and second to Urgent Request in 1995. Irish-bred Urgent Request finished last in a field of 11 in 1996, a year after his Big 'Cap score. Malek, a Chilean-bred, missed the 1999 running but finished fourth as a 7-year-old in 2000. The list of other Big 'Cap winners who failed to win a second running includes Prove It, first in 1961 and ninth in 1962; Physician, first in 1962 and eighth in 1963; Nodouble, first in 1969 and eighth in 1970, and Crystal Water, first in 1977 and fourth in 1978. The most famous occasion of a Big 'Cap champion failing to achieve a repeat came in 1940 when Kayak II, the 1939 winner, lost by a length to stablemate Seabiscuit.
Past winners of the Santa Anita Handicap
From a Santa Anita press release
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