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Jockey John Velazquez and trainer Bob Baffert celebrate after Medina Spirit wins the 2021 Awesome Again Stakes
The highlight race of the Santa Anita fall meeting is the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1), featuring the best older horses of the west coast going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, and is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Classic to be run on Saturday November 6 at Del Mar. Conditions were typical for the first weekend of October, with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 90's, with 8,229 fans in attendance. A field of 8 made final entry, with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit sent off as the 6-5 favorite off his Shared Belief win after finishing 3rd in the Preakness (G1). In to challenge him included 11-4 second choice Tripoli, winner of the Pacific Classic (G1), and 5-1 third choice Tizamagician, second in the Pacific Classic.
Medina Spirit leads first time by
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Medina Spirit Velazquez 4.60 4.20 3.40 4 Stilleto Boy Desormeaux 25.40 12.00 3 Express Train Hernandez 4.20 Winning Time: 1:49.67 $1 Exacta 5-4 83.30 $1 Trifecta 5-4-3 446.10 $1 Superfecta 5-4-3-7 2,140.20Results Chart
Left: Medina Spirit in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "That was impressive. He didn't even get tired. Pretty awesome. He handled it well. The further the better. He showed up. He loves it here and at Del Mar. I'm very proud of him. This is the time of year the three-year-olds catch up to the older horses. I'm happy for Zedan and what we have had to deal with. We stayed focused on the horses. The fans came out to see this horse and they are rooting for him. I could tell by the crowd noise. They are all pulling for him. It's an emotional win for us. Johnny V. can do whatever with the horse. He can wait, stalk, whatever. This horse keeps getting better and better."
Right: Medina Spirit heads back to the barns. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "I made sure I talked to Bob first, basically I wanted the permission to do what I want. Bob said, 'It's your job, you do what you need to do.' I was more aware of the two horses inside. Prat's horse had a lot of speed for a mile and a quarter. I said, 'I'm going to come out running, I'm going to commit to the lead at the first turn. If he wants to go, he needs to be faster than me.' He broke well enough for me to get my position where I wanted to go, and once we got to the first turn he threw his ears up, and I knew he was going into a nice rhythm. From then on I felt really comfortable with him."
Left: Medina Spirit in the paddock before the race.
Right: Medina Spirit returns after the race. Velazquez added, "I keep saying this guy he has a lot of heart. That's all he has. He's very competitive and when the horses come to him, he gives you everything he can. That's all you can ask of a horse. He's not very big, he's not very beautiful but obviously he's all heart and you can't ask for anything else. He's danced with all the good horses and coming into today and doing it again we got to give it to him. It's the knack of the horse, they don't give him much credit, he's running with all the good horses and keeps showing up and running these kinds of races. The way he ran today, that was impressive, maybe they will give him the credit he deserves now."
Left: Second place finisher Stilleto Boy in the paddock before the race. The Ed Moger Jr. trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 3 thirds in 10 starts, earning $324,675 for owner Steve Moger.
Right: Third place finisher Express Train returns after the race. The John Shirreffs trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 14 starts, earning $695,800 for owner C R K Stable.
The field shortly after the start of the Awesome Again Stakes.
Going to Vegas wins the Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1)
Jockey Umberto Rispoli sent Going to Vegas to the lead down the chute and across the main track through fractions of 24.35, 48.72, 1:13.49, and 1:36.35 while pressed by 24-1 Neige Blanche and stalked by Dogtag. Turning for home, Going to Vegas continued to lead but Luck, 6th early under Flavien Prat, came out for room and put in a strong rally but Going to Vegas held her off by a head in 1:58.84. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Dogtag third.
Left: Going to Vegas in the winner's circle with her gigantic owners group. Winning trainer Richard Baltas said, "I'm thrilled with both horse's performances. Going to Vegas has the tactical speed and loves going a mile and a quarter and she showed it. It was a great ride by Umberto. My other horse, Luck, really moved up in class. I was really happy with her performance, she really improved in a Grade 1, I'm looking forward to the future with her. We will see how the two horses come out of the race tomorrow, but I feel that both horses are heading to the Breeders' Cup."
Right: Going to Vegas returns after the race. Winning jockey Umberto Rispoli said, "When it is a Grade 1 you want to give it your all no matter how many people there are waiting for you when you come back, but this is great. I could hear people screaming and applauding. I was busy because I could feel Flavien was coming. I knew he was coming fast, but we handled pretty well, I'm pretty happy that they decided to get me back on the filly. I credit the owners and Richard as well. She's a Grade 1 winner now, the next step is a Breeders' Cup."
Left: Second place finisher Luck in the walking ring before the race. The Richard Baltas trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 0 thirds in 6 starts, earning $128,670 for owner-breeder LNJ Foxwoods.
Right: Third place finisher Dogtag returns after the race. The Richard Baltas trainee improved her record to 4 wins, 5 seconds, and 3 thirds in 15 starts, earning $424,791 for owner-breeder LNJ Foxwoods.
United (outside) wins the John Henry Turf Championship (G2)
Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez sent 8-1 fourth choice Acclimate to a clear lead down the chute and across the main track through fractions of 22.70, 46.32, 1:11.42, and 1:35.01 while pressed by 9-1 Neptune's Storm and stalked by 56-1 longest shot Camino Del Paraiso. Turning for home, Acclimate continued to lead but United, 9th early under Flavien Prat, came out 5 wide into stretch and rallied to get up by a nose in 1:58.41. It was another nose back to deep-closing Friar's Road third.
Left: United in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "I didn't think he quite got there. I was accepting, second, third and another good race. But what a great feeling when they said I won. I always expect it but it doesn't always happen. He couldn't look better, train better, so we expected him to run like he did. We'll aim for the Breeders' Cup. He's like part of the family. He's an old gelding, been around a long time. You tend to get to know him as well as you know people. He likes seeing us and we like seeing him.
Right: United heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "I thought I got it, but I heard there was a picture, so I guess it was pretty close, closer than I thought. It took me forever to get him up, so I didn't see there was a picture actually. It's always great to win a race prior to the Breeders' Cup and it seems like he's doing great. He always does great actually, and it is really fun to be around him."
Dr. Schivel wins the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) missing his right rein
Jockey Flavien Prat sent Dr. Schivel to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 21.87 45.07 while pressed by 11-2 fourth choice Vertical Threat and stalked by Flagstaff. Turning for home Dr. Schivel opened up a 5 length lead through 5f in 56.51, and despite breaking his right rein earlier, cruised the rest of the way to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Flagstaff in 1:09.44. It was a nose back to late-running C Z Rocket third.
Left: Dr. Schivel in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Mark Glatt said, "Flavien said he grabbed him a little bit coming out of the chute, and when he did that apparently the rein came out of the keeper. So he virtually had little control. We just left it up to Flavien and just tried to get a spot where we don't get stuck inside and get trapped. I think he was trying to say, 'We won't get stuck if we are on the lead,' and that's what he did. He ran tremendous after that."
Right: Dr. Schivel heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "I had just the left rein after we left the chute at around the five-and-a-half-furlong mark. It was kind of scary. This has never happened to me before. The horse was very proficient. Everything was normal otherwise. I let the other jock know that I only had the one reign and to stay out of the way. Everything worked out great and we got home safely."
Mo Forza wins the City of Hope Mile (G2)
Smooth Like Strait and 25-1 Red Storm Risen dueled for the lead through fractions of 22.61, 46.66, and 1:08.98 while stalked by 26-1 longest shot Order and Law. Entering the lane Smooth Like Strait opened up a 1 1/2 length lead through 7f in 1:20.57 but Mo Forza, last early under Flavien Prat, came out widest of all and rallied to win by 1/2 a length in 1:32.45. It was a head back to Hit the Road third.
Left: Mo Forza in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Peter Miller, who was also celebrating his birthday, said, "I was very worried the first minute and 30 seconds. I felt a lot better the last two and a half seconds. The pace was quick in the early going, then it slowed down and then they picked it up again. I didn't have any pre-race instructions for Flavien. I left the plans in Flavien's hands. It is up to him. He knows the horse. If the pace is fast, he'll lay back. If it's a moderate pace, we'll be up close. Our next stop is the Breeders' Cup."
Right: Mo Forza heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "It was a bit of an awkward race. First quarter was pretty fast, I felt like it was pretty fast. Then we hit the first turn and slowed down a lot, then we got to the backside and took off again, so it was a bit of an awkward race. After that they all came up to me around the far turn, I was trying to get him together, to regroup and get a good run down the lane and that's what he did. He showed a lot of class today. He's definitely one who always gives you everything. He has a great turn of foot and it's always a pleasure riding him."
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