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Joel Rosario aboard Combatant after winning the Big Cap.
The highlight race of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is the $600,000 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 just 15,256 fans in attendance. Conditions were typical for early March with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 60's, main track rated fast and turf firm. After San Antonio (G2) winner Gift Box scratched, San Pasqual (G3) winner Midcourt was sent off as the 7-10 favorite in the field of 7. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Endorsed, an allowance winner after finishing 4th in the Travers (G1), and 6-1 third choice Hofburg, 7th in the Mineshaft (G3).
Combatant leads down the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Combatant Rosario 21.20 10.20 4.00 1 Multiplier Gaffalione 28.00 6.40 5 Midcourt Espinoza 2.20 Winning Time: 2:02.32 $1 Exacta 6-1 187.00 $0.50 Trifecta 6-1-5 284.75 $0.10 Superfecta 6-1-5-3 337.72
Left: Combatant in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Sadler said, "Obviously we wanted to run Gift Box. This horse we were considering somewhere else, but I put him in as an insurance policy. He trained really well and it looked like he had no distance limitations to me, so I thought it was a good chance to try him. We are lucky enough to have several horses in this division. We have Gift Box, Higher Power, and Combatant. We think there are opportunities for these horses in different races. These are problems we like to have. We like to have a lot of good horses. There's never a problem having too many horses that can run. We can run them in different spots."
Right: Combatant heads back to the barn after the race.
Left: Combatant in the paddock. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "It's beautiful it was nice to win and to win it for John. I feel sorry that my other horse (Gift Box) scratched, but this was a nice thing to make up for that. He was in a good spot. It looked like they didn't go too fast it was a good pace for us. He was very comfortable where he was, and I was happy with how he progressed."
Right: Combatant returns after the race. Winning owner Kosta Hronis said, "As a little kid coming to the racetrack, we always came to the Santa Anita Handicap. To be in the race is an honor and to win it three times in a row, that is just a tribute to John Sadler and his team. Three different horses three different years. Gift Box got scratched as the 6-5 favorite, so we brought in the 12-1 up and we just win the race. That's just what he does." This is the third Big Cap in a row for owner Hronis and trainer Sadler.
Left: Second place finisher Multiplier in the paddock. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "We had a great performance today, Multiplier gave it everything he had like he always does, but we just didn't have enough in the end. He was giving me everything he had, it is really hard to knock him right now. I had a very clean trip, I stayed down. We were able to get through on the inside and finish up strong, so I can't complain."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Midcourt in the post parade. Jockey Victor Espinoza said, "He ran a good race. I was following the three (Brown Storm) and he was lugging out, so I tried to keep my distance from him. We had a light bump at the three eighths and my horse lost his stride. He was still running, but not like he has in his best races. He tried hard, but he's run better than that."
River Boyne leads on the rail in the stretch
Jockey Mario Gutierrez sent 16-1 Kingly to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.15, 46.49, and 1:10.27 while pressed by Got Stormy and stalked by 60-1 Sash. Turning for home, Got Stormy gained the lead through 7f in 1:22.04, but River Boyne, 5th early under Abel Cedillo, came through on the inside to win by a neck in 1:33.88. It was another head back to Next Shares third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 River Boyne Cedillo 12.00 5.20 3.40 3 Got Stormy Gaffalione 2.80 2.40 4 Next Shares Prat 5.00 Winning Time: 1:33.88 $1 Exacta 2-3 14.90 $0.50 Trifecta 2-3-4 48.15 $0.10 Superfecta 2-3-4-1 35.30
Left: River Boyne in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said, "A perfect trip. I told Abel to try and get the same trip as he did last time. This time he had to go inside instead of outside. Abel has done a great job keeping him in position, that is the way he likes to run and he's got a really good kick down the lane. I couldn't say anymore about Abel. I do want to wish Jeb Cohen a happy birthday. He'll go anywhere you want him to as long as he's got enough energy left. Abel has done a great job of saving it until it counts so a lot of credit goes to Abel. When I brought him back off the layoff, I wasn't sure he was coming back. He threw a dud the first time and then he had some troubles, but he's back."
Right: River Boyne heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Abel Cedillo said, "Well, thank God my horse can go anywhere, inside or outside. I was trying to go outside, but when I saw him move up a little bit, I got plenty of room inside. So, I just took a chance to go inside. My horse responded really good. I'm excited, my horse is running really good."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Got Stormy in the post parade. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "It's definitely a step forward from the last race. We would have liked to have won, but hopefully she comes out of the race fine. We didn't see much pace on the form, so we figured we'd be a little aggressive out of the gate she usually breaks well. I let her run down to the first turn, and it looked like (Kingly) wanted the lead, so I just took back on the outside of him and sat beautifully the whole way. I had a ton of horse coming into the stretch, and she kicked on, but she just got run down."
Right: Third place finisher Next Shares returns after the race. The Richard Baltas trainee improved his record to 7 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 31 starts, earning $1,725,771 for owners Debby and Richard Baltas, Julia and Michael Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Jeremy Peskoff, Ritchie Robershaw, and Mark Taylor.
Flagstaff leads on the outside down the stretch
Jockey Flavien Prat sent 8-1 St. Joe Bay to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 22.27 and 45.04 while pressed by 20-1 Law Abidin Citizen and stalked by 7-1 McKale. Turning for home, the pacesetters tired badly as Flagstaff, 4th early under Victor Espinoza, swept to the front 4 wide through 3/4 in 1:09.54. Kept to task by Espinoza, Flagstaff drew off to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Roadster in 1:22.64. It was another length back to McKale third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Flagstaff Espinoza 4.00 2.40 2.20 3 Roadster Smith 3.00 2.60 6 McKale Van Dyke 4.00 Winning Time: 1:22.64 $1 Exacta 2-3 4.70 $0.50 Trifecta 2-3-6 11.85 $0.10 Superfecta 2-3-6-5 9.48
Left: Flagstaff in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Sadler said, "He waits a little bit when he gets in front so Victor was trying to sit behind as long as he could. Victor told me he got to the front a little quick, he was loaded today, plenty of horse, he's really strong. I feel really good, we ran second (Navetta) in the previous race and my first time starter ran great so here we go!"
Right: Flagstaff returns after the race. Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "I was worried a little bit on the backside because they slowed down, and I was a bit farther back than I wanted. When the dirt started hitting, it kicked back, he started slowing down a bit so I had to move out. When I moved out, that was it; it's just another gear that he has. I wanted to wait turning for home a little longer, because when he takes the lead, normally he waits for horses. I didn't want to take the lead too soon, but the other horses couldn't keep up with me so I just had to let him run."
Left: Second place finisher Roadster returns after the race. Jockey Mike Smith said, "He ran awesome. Of course, I was expecting a little hotter pace up front. That would have set me up perfect, but they went kind of easy the first part of the race. I made a really good run, but (Flagstaff) finished. This was a big step forward for him, and there's a lot of room to grow."
Right: Third place finisher McKale returns after the race. The Bob Baffert trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 11 starts, earning $156,900 for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman.
Authentic leads over Honor A. P. down the stretch
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke sent Authentic to the lead first time by through fractions of 22.84, 46.71, and 1:11.32 while presssed by 4-1 fourth choice Storm the Court and stalked by Thousand Words. Into the lane Authentic opened up a 2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:36.89, and pulled away late to win by 2 1/4 lengths over late-running Honor A. P. in 1:43.56. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Storm the Court third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Authentic Van Dyke 4.40 3.20 2.60 2 Honor A. P. Smith 4.00 2.80 6 Storm the Court Rosario 2.80 Winning Time: 1:43.56 $1 Exacta 4-2 9.00 $0.50 Trifecta 4-2-6 12.85 $0.10 Superfecta 4-2-6-5 3.38
Left: Authentic in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "He stumbled a little bit leaving there, and I anticipated that, but he's so quick on his feet. But when I saw the fractions, 22 and change, it was fast, but he was doing it so easy. The really good ones do that and I just love the way he looked down the backside. Turning for home I saw Mike Smith coming with (Honor A.P.) and I said, We'll see what he's made of' and I was hoping he wouldn't do his shenanigans (ducking in). But he handled it well and he wasn't tired. He's a special horse and this was probably one of the toughest prep races that we've seen so far. Those were really good horses in there. We hope to stay healthy and run in the Santa Anita Derby (April 4). He'll stay here and run in that."
Right: Authentic heads back to the barn after the race.
Left: Authentic in the post parade. Winning jockey Drayden Van Dyke said, "Beautiful trip. He took a little tiny stumble out of the gate, but it wasn't enough to cost us. I was just in cruise control. I was seeing if anybody was going to test me to make me pick it up. I kept him going a few times, just to keep him focused, but he got off amazing and it seems like there's more in the tank. I think he's just getting more mature himself; that was his first time going two turns."
Right: Authentic gets a pat after the race. Winning co-owner Jack Wolf said, "On top of the way he tucked in in the last race, Bob seems to have it solved. I was sitting next to Bob during the race and when I saw the .22 and .44, I thought they were too quick, and he said he's doing it easy."
Left: Second place finisher Honor A. P. returns after the race. Jockey Mike Smith said, "I'm very proud of him, and I thought he ran extremely well. We were a bit behind coming in because he bruised his foot earlier, about a month and a half or two months ago. So, we missed some time with him, but I thought if I could finish within a couple lengths of whoever won it today, then that would be a really good effort, and if I was to win it, that would be incredible. I was very happy with this effort, and he should move forward off this. He's starting to mature a whole lot and listening to what we're trying to get him to do. So far, so good. He's just getting smarter every race."
Right: Third place finisher Storm the Court in the post parade. The Peter Eurton trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 0 seconds, and 2 thirds in 6 starts, earning $1,232,951 for owners David Bernsen, Exline-Border Racing, Dan Hudock, and Susana Wilson.
The $75,000 China Doll Stakes featured a field of 13 three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf. Jockey Rafael Bejarano sent 37-1 Roadrunner's Honor to lead through fractions of 23.43 amd 47.84 while pressed by 9-2 Bella Vita and stalked by 128-1 Sherilinda. On the far turn Bella Vita took over the lead through 3/4 in 1:12.30 and 7f in 1:24.37, but 3-1 favorite Warren's Showtime, 6th early, came through on the inside under Jorge Velez to win by 1/2 a length over fast-closing 13-4 second choice Stela Star. It was another 1/2 length back to Bella Vita third.
Warren's Showtime in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Craig Lewis said, "She's a terrific filly. I am just grateful I get to train her. We were very concerned about the 11 hole with a mile and a 14-horse field but Jorge did a fantastic job getting her in in the Clubhouse turn and then came through a very narrow hole. He's very brave and so is the filly. We are very pleased with the ride and very pleased with the filly; she is terrific. She definitely knows where the wire is.
Winning jockey Jorge Velez said, "This filly is really nice. She likes going behind horses, she doesn't care, she goes wherever. She's really nice, easy to work and always ready for the race. I've ridden this filly six or seven times, and I've won three stakes with this her. All the time she runs really good in the stretch. She likes to run with pressure at the rail."
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