Southern Image winner of the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap.
Santa Anita was again the spotlight track this weekend, headlined by the meet's signature race, the $1 million Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. This 1 1/4 mile event on the main track drew a field of eight older horses, including one filly, Island Fashion.
Southern Image out front with second place finisher Island Fashion 1 1/4 lengths behind.
Victor Espinoza aboard Southern Image.
Winning jockey Victor Espinoza, winning his first Santa Anita Handicap and second stakes of the day, said, "It's tough when you ride these kind of horses (laughing). But everything felt good. He's a big-hearted horse and he's all about running. He feels and he looks like all of the big horses I've been riding, like War Emblem, horses that don't want to get beat. I've known this horse from the beginning. I started riding him when he was young. I have a great time with him. I give a lot of credit to the horse and the trainer and maybe 10 percent at the most to me."
Island Fashion and Kent Desormeaux return after their second place finish in the Big Cap.
Tyler Baze, aboard third place finish Saint Buddy, said, "He proved to me he could run today. At the five-eighths pole I said I've got a chance to get out right now, let's get to the outside, so we'll be able to run. When we were in the Strub I had to pull him up all the way down the lane and never had a chance to run. We went six, seven wide around the turn today which probably cost us a length. But it's better that I had chance to let him run today rather than sit inside and maybe not get through again."
Imperialism just gets up on the outside of Lion Heart to win the San Rafael by a neck.
On the undercard of the "Big Cap" was the Grade 2 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap, a one mile turf event for older horses with a $350,000 purse. A full field of fourteen faced the starter, with Buckland Manor sent off as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite.
The longest shot on the board, Roch N Rosh at 87-1, set the early pace of 22.84, 45.55, and 1:09.84 over the firm turf course, with favored Buckland Manor staying close behind. Turning for the stretch drive, Rock N Rush weakened badly as the rest of the field passed him. 9-1 shot Designed For Luck came four wide into the stretch from sixth place, gained position down the lane, and got the lead a furlong out. 10-1 shot Sweet Return, chasing the pace in seventh early, took a five wide path around the turn, rallied well down the center of the course and prevailed by 1/2 a length over another closer, Singletary. It was two lengths back to 6-1 shot Inesperado. Favored Buckland Manor was well placed early but lacked a rally and finished sixth. The time for the mile event was 1:33.87. Results Chart
Sweet Return and Gary Stevens return to the winner's circle after the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
Winning jockey Gary Stevens aboard Sweet Return said, "I didn't know if it would be possible from the fourteen hole, but we got a nice spot going into the first turn and I was able to save some ground. He relaxed some for me and then came home like a powerhouse. It was unbelievable, just a great trip. "
Winning trainer Ron McAnally said, "Gary's (Stevens) the greatest. We discussed strategy in the paddock and we were both on the same channel. He figured the race out the way I did, which was just the way it worked out."
Capping off the big weekend of stakes action at Santa Anita was the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap, a seven furlong sprint for older horses with a $150,000 purse on Sunday. Ten went to post with Bluesthestandard sent off as the 8-5 favorite.
Pico Central winning the San Carlos Handicap at 43-1.
Winning trainer Paulo Lobo
Winning jockey David Flores said, "I saw his last race and he showed a lot of speed. I was just trying to get him relaxed, because in his first race he was much faster than the rest of the field. I got a good hold of him and had control of him the first quarter of a mile, and that breather gave him a little help. He was pretty strong most of the way, pulling, and showed good strength."
Winning jockey David Flores
Mike Smith, aboard beaten favorite Bluesthestandard, said "He was in the right spot I thought, a good spot around the turn. I didn't like being in the one hole, but for being in there I thought I got a really good spot, right behind the winner, traveling over the same ground, and was able to get through in between them. He just didn't kick on today."
Photos courtesy of Tina Hines.
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