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Javier Castellano celebrates aboard Shaman Ghost after the Big Cap.
The highlight race of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1), featuring the best older handicap horses on the west coast going 1 1/4 miles over the main track in Arcadia before 29,412 fans in attendance. Conditions were excellent with bright sunny skies, a fast main track, firm turf, and temperatures in the high 80's. 2015 Queen's Plate and 2016 Woodward (G1) winner Shaman Ghost was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 9 off his second place finish in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) last out. In to challenge him included 7-5 second choice Midnight Storm, winner of the Native Diver (G3) and San Pasqual (G2), and 10-1 third choice Imperative, winner of the Poseidon Handicap on the Pegasus undercard.
Shaman Ghost starts to draw away in the stretch
Jockey Rafael Bejarano sent Midnight Storm to the front exiting the chute and first time by through fractions of 23.54, 47.52, 1:11.76, and 1:36.18 while pressed by 17-1 Isotherm and stalked by favorite Shaman Ghost. Midnight Storm continued to lead to midstretch through 9f in 1:48.73, but Shaman Ghost, under confident handling by Javier Castellano, came out for room and rallied by the pacesetter to win by 3/4 length in 2:01.57. It was a long 4 1/2 lengths back to late-running 19-1 Follow Me Crev third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Shaman Ghost Castellano 4.60 2.60 2.40 1 Midnight Storm Bejarano 3.00 2.80 6 Follow Me Crev Desormeaux 5.00 Winning Time: 2:01.57 $1 Exacta 3-1 5.50 $1 Trifecta 3-1-6 32.90 $1 Superfecta 3-1-6-8 268.20
Left: Shaman Ghost in the winner's circle. He is the first Canadian-bred to win the Santa Anita Handicap. Winning owner-breeder Frank Stronach said, "This is my third win in the Big 'Cap (after 2002 and 2003 winner Milwaukee Brew). Of course any time you win a Grade 1 it is a thrill, especially this race. I was kind of sitting there quiet (watching the race.) He's had a lot of bad racing luck and he's better than what he has shown. Today it all worked out." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "I knew there wasn't a lot of speed in the race so I just wanted to focus on the horse on the lead, Midnight Storm, and keep track of him. I knew I had it won at the 1/8 pole. I asked him for full speed at the 1/8 pole, and he gave it to me, right away. I tried to get away from Midnight Storm in the stretch. I could tell that my horse was a little sensitive to going by the other horse. I switched my stick to my left hand, tried to make him switch leads to go by and that's what he did."
Right: Shaman Ghost in the paddock. Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens said, "He was in a nice spot the whole way, and then when the leader kicked away a little on the turn, for a second it looked like he was getting a little discouraged. Javier was able to head him to the outside, out of the dirt, and I felt good right before they turned for home. I felt like, 'May the best horse win.' It didn't look on paper like there was much pace, so it didn't surprise me that he was placed where he was. He's been showing up in all of his races, so I think he should get some (respect) now."
Left: Second place finisher Midnight Storm in the post parade. Jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "I didn't try to send him right away, I just left him alone. At the first jump he was stepping slow but I didn't rush him. I let him go and when I got him to the lead I tried to hold the pace, letting everybody follow me. It was good. I stayed on the rail, and the horse relaxed. He was really, really relaxed the whole race. I tried to get the jump at the start and tried to steal the race, but the winner was much the best today. With my horse, it was the first time running the 1 1/4 on the dirt. I think he did a really good job."
Right: Third place finisher Follow Me Crev in the paddock. The 19-1 shot raced 8th 5 lengths off the pace early under Kent Desormeaux, then passed tired horses to get third beaten 5 1/4 lengths. The Vladimir Cerin trainee improved his record to 6 wins, 3 seconds, and 4 thirds in 20 starts, earning $337,240 for owners Holly and David Wilson.
Bal a Bali catching What A View in the stretch
Jockey Tyler Baze sent 7-1 What a View to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.40, 46.89, and 1:10.12 while pressed by Conquest Enforcer and stalked by 9-1 Bal a Bali. What a View continued to lead to midstretch through 7f in 1:21.84, but Bal a Bali closed late to win by a head in 1:33.86. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Bolo third, while favorite Conquest Enforcer tired late to finish fifth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Bal A Bali Castellano 14.00 5.80 3.40 7 What A View Baze 3.80 2.60 3 Bolo Smith 2.80 Winning Time: 1:33.86 $1 Exacta 1-7 23.70 $1 Trifecta 1-7-3 77.80 $1 Superfecta 1-7-3-5 241.60
Left: Bal a Bali in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "I like winning better. The horse got sour last year, and with a little time off and some freshening up, he responded and came back good."
Right: Bal a Bali in the post parade. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "He came from way back and gave a great performance. Richard kind of told me how to ride the horse a little bit. I did my homework, watched past races, handicapped the race. Everything turned out well, worked out great. I'm very fortunate and was very lucky to ride this horse."
Left: Second place finisher What A View in the paddock. Trainer Kenny Black said, "That is just brutal. I thought he was home free turning for home. It looked like Tyler (Baze) had a ton of horse. This horse has gotten really good, that's obviously the best race he's ever run."
Right: Third place finisher Bolo in the paddock. The 31-10 third choice raced 5th 3 1/2 lengths off the pace under Mike Smith, then rallied to get third beaten 1 1/2 lengths. The Carla Gaines trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 1 second, and 3 thirds in 14 starts, earning $662,045 for owners Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle I. Mack LLC.
Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Conquest Enforcer in the paddock. The 11-4 choice pressed the pace under Flavien Prat, but tired late to finish 5th beaten 3 1/2 lengths. The Phil D'Amato trainee has a record of 5 wins, 0 seconds, and 3 thirds in 10 starts, earning $512,640 for owners Loooch Racing Stables Inc., Imaginary Stables, and Raquel Ritchie.
Mastery leads down the stretch
Jockey Mike Smith sent Mastery to the front immediately and he set fractions of 23.50, 46.79, and 1:10.48 while pressed by Gormley and stalked by Iliad. Entering the lane Mastery left the field in his wake through 1 mile in 1:35.62, and finished up 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Iliad in 1:42.28. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to late-running 62-1 Term of Art third. Unfortunately, Mastery took a bad step during the runout, was pulled up by Smith and unsaddled on the clubhouse turn, and vanned off. X-rays taken at the barn revealed a condylar fracture in his left front leg, immediately removing him from Kentucky Derby consideration. He is scheduled for surgery this week.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Mastery Smith 3.60 2.40 2.10 6 Iliad Prat 3.40 2.60 1 Term of Art Baze 5.40 Winning Time: 1:42.28 $1 Exacta 4-6 5.10 $1 Trifecta 4-6-1 52.70 $1 Superfecta 4-6-1-5 132.80
Left: Trophy presentation for the San Felipe with Frank Stronach presenting the trophy. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "We've been so high on this horse, and you see what he did today was just incredible and puts him as the best 3-year-old in the nation. I'm walking down and I hear a fan say 'I hope your horse is all right.' I said 'What?!' and he said 'I hear they're unsaddling him.' We went from the highest of the highs to somber. Hopefully it's nothing obvious or really serious. We'll have to get back there and find out what's going on. The way he moves – he's just a beautiful moving horse. He was just doing it easy. It's very rare to get one like that. You go from seeing the next coming, and then something like that happens. I've never dealt with anything like that. I thought maybe it was heat or something."
Right: Mastery in the paddock. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "He seemed to just go off in the left hind. I don't know why. Nothing happened that made me think, 'Oh, something just happened.' He just all of the sudden went off and wouldn't put weight on it. I got off real quick and nothing seemed dislocated or anything. After he moved for a little bit he started walking fine on it so I'm hoping that maybe he just tweaked it or rolled it. I'm hoping it's not that serious because he's an incredible horse. I felt it about 10 jumps after the wire. All of a sudden he just picked up his back leg. At that point I couldn't tell what it was. After a minute or so and he started walking, he seemed fine. This is a really talented horse. The powe,r it's endless with this guy. He's some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down one, gear up two, gear down one..."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Iliad returns after the race. Trainer Doug O'Neill said, "He just got a little tired. Obviously, Mastery is a very special horse, but I'm really happy with the way my horse ran first time around two turns. If he stays healthy, we'll shoot for the Santa Anita Derby." Jockey Flavien Prat added, "Between the 3/8 and the 1/4 pole, I thought I could catch him. This was his first time around two turns and he ran really well. He should improve off of this race."
Right: Third place finisher Term of Art in the paddock before the race. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 2 thirds in 8 starts, earning $169,760 for owner Calumet Farm.
Denman's Call rallies on the rail in the stretch
Jockey Mike Smith sent Masochistic to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 22.94, 45.22, and 1:08.79 while pressed by 20-1 Conquest Cobra and stalked by 16-1 Denman's Call. Masochistic led to the 1/8 pole but Denman's Call, under confident handling by Tyler Baze, rallied to pass him before the 1/16 pole to pull off the upset by a length in 1:20.94. It was a long 4 1/4 lengths back to Conquest Cobra third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Denman's Call Baze 35.40 8.60 4.80 5 Masochistic Smith 2.60 2.10 7 Conquest Cobra Bejarano 5.80 Winning Time: 1:20.94 $1 Exacta 1-5 38.10 $1 Trifecta 1-5-7 456.80 $1 Superfecta 1-5-7-4 875.90
Left: Denman's Call in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Doug O'Neill said, "To see a champ like Masochistic up there on the lead, and to go the first quarter like that. (Denman's Call) was sitting on a good race, you just never know where the class is. We dreamt about this but none of us would have thought it was possible to do what he just did. I was going to run in an allowance but it didn't fill, and here we are. We were just talking about what an unbelievable opportunity and a dream it would be to have him for the Breeders' Cup Sprint down at Del Mar this year. That'll probably be a dream goal."
Right: Denman's Call returns after the race. Winning jockey Tyler Baze said, "We hoped (Conquest Cobra) would go with Masochistic a little bit and give him just a little company the first part of the race. He just went where I pointed him today. There wasn't a whole lot of room down there on the rail, but that was my only option at the time. When I said 'let's go,' he went. That length off the rail was really there the whole race. It started getting tighter and tighter, and I said 'If I don't go now, I might be stuck in a bad situation.' I pulled the trigger, and he answered."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Masochistic in the post parade. Trainer Ron Ellis said, "He got a little bit tired. He hasn't ran in 3 1/2 months or so. He ran a really good race and just got a little tired. It's a tough distance for a speed horse to go wire to wire off a layoff. I think everything went great. He got pushed just a little bit that second quarter was a pretty quick second quarter and I think that it caught up with him in the end."
Right: Third place finisher Conquest Cobra in the paddock. The Vladimir Cerin trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 3 seconds, and 4 thirds in 19 starts, earning $254,769 for owners Holly and David Wilson.
For the nightcap, the $75,000 China Doll Stakes featured a field of 12 three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf. 7-1 Miss Sunset set the pace of 22.29 and 46.02 while pressed by 6-5 favorite Sircat Sally and stalked by 66-1 Bernina Star. On the far turn, jockey Mike Smith sent Sircat Sally to lead through 3/4 in 1:10.44, and quickly opened up a 3 length lead through 7f in 1:22.36. 4-1 second choice Beau Recall, 10th early, put in a strong late rally but Sircat Sally easily cruised to a 1 1/4 length win in 1:34.40. It was a length back to 8-1 Miss Sugars third.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee improved her record to a perfect 4 wins in 4 starts, earning $258,860 for owner-breeder Joe Turner.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens won his first race after hip replacement surgery in December, aboard Shehastheritestuff in the 6th race on Saturday. Stevens said, "I found out last week that I was going to ride this filly. Paddy (Gallagher, trainer) was pretty high on her and told me to just settle her as much as I could, keep her relaxed. I watched her last three races and she settled very nicely for me today. She has one hellacious kick. The first win back after an injury is always the toughest. 'Let's go racin' folks!'"
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