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Victor Espinoza celebrates aboard Express Train after winning the Big Cap.
The highlight race of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is the $650,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) presented by Yaamava' Resort and Casino, featuring the best older handicap horses on the west coast going 1 1/4 miles over the main track in Arcadia. Conditions were typical for early March for the 12,187 fans in attendance, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 50's, with the main track rated fast and turf going firm despite showers on Friday. Express Train was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 7 off wins in the San Antonio (G2) and San Pasqual (G2), the local prep series for this race. In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Stilleto Boy, third in the Malibu (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1), and 4-1 third choice Warrant, third in the Louisiana Stakes (G3).
Down the stretch in the Santa Anita Handicap
Jockey Mike Smith sent 30-1 longest shot American Theorem to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.00, 45.97, and 1:11.39 while pressed by 21-1 Spielberg and stalked by Warrant. On the far turn American Theorem tired allowing Warrant to inherit the lead through 1 mile in 1:37.20, but his lead was short lived. Express Train, 4th early under Victor Espinoza, came out 3 wide for room and swept to the lead at the 3/16 pole setting up a duel to the line. Express Train kept his head in front the rest of the way to win in 2:03.22. It was a long 9 lengths back to Stilleto Boy third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Express Train Espinoza 4.20 2.60 2.10 3 Warrant Prat 4.00 2.60 8 Stilleto Boy Velazquez 2.20 Winning Time: 2:03.22 $1 Exacta 6-3 8.60 $0.50 Trifecta 6-3-8 9.25 $0.10 Superfecta 6-3-8-1 6.10
Left: Express Train in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Shirreffs said, "It feels great. It's just thrilling, exciting, wonderful. You dream about winning the Santa Anita Handicap and to actually have it happen and with a horse like Express Train, who has done everything (right) along the way. He's made the little steps, the big steps. He participated in all the big races we had in the West Coast and he's been there and shown up. To have him win the Santa Anita Handicap, it's just thrilling."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Santa Anita Handicap. Winning owner Lee Searing said, "I've been coming to Santa Anita since 1956, at eight years old, I attended 25 straight Santa Anita Handicaps and they were the highlights of my years as a young boy. To own horses and to have only run three in the Handicap, never until today with really a chance. But to see this horse as the favorite. The more he ran the more he gave. It is just so exciting to me and John and Dottie and everyone who loved the horse and my wife and kids."
Left: Express Train in the paddock. Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "I always look forward to a chance to win this race. This year was a little more special for John. I really wanted to get a win for him after so many years. As soon as he's in front, he knows he's got it. He just gave me a little bit of a hard time at the end to get me excited and pump up my muscles. I thought it was an exciting race. He is a powerful horse and he needs to find rhythm. It doesn't matter how wide I go on the turns as long as he is comfortable enough to stretch his legs and do his thing."
Right: Express Train heads back to the barn after the race. Shirreffs added, "Victor really gets along with Express Train. It was a Hall of Fame ride because Johnny Velazquez (aboard Stilleto Boy) wasn't going anywhere and he just kept kicking in and digging in and I thought I got away from him and he came back on. It was a great ride by both. Lee Searing has to be thrilled, over the moon. He's been such a patron of the sport and it's just great."
Left: Second place finisher Warrant in the paddock. The Brad Cox trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 9 starts, earning $779,700 for owner-breeder Twin Creeks Racing Stables.
Right: Third place finisher Stilleto Boy returns after the race. The Ed Moger Jr. trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 6 thirds in 14 starts, earning $911,175 for owner Steve Moger.
Forbidden Kingdom wins the San Felipe
Jockey Juan Hernandez sent Forbidden Kingdom loose on the lead first time by through fractions of 22.66, 45.90, and 1:10.46 chased by Armagnac and Happy Jack. Turning for home, Forbidden Kingdom was 7 lengths clear as Doppleganger moved up from 5th to challenge. Under a hand ride Forbidden Kingdom cruised the rest of the way to win by 5 3/4 lengths over Doppelganger in 1:43.98. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to 26-1 Happy Jack third.
Left: Forbidden Kingdom in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "I was anxious to see this race and see if he would get two turns. He looked even better. I was a little nervous when I saw the .45 on the board for the first half. He just did what he likes to do. The next step is the Santa Anita Derby next month. It's tough to compare horses (when asked about Omaha Beach). This guy is turning the corner and he's grown up."
Right: Forbidden Kingdom in the post parade. Hernandez said, "It worked out pretty well, Mr. Mandella had the horse ready. He's really fast. A couple of jumps after we broke, he was in front already. I let him run because if you fight with him he tries to go faster. I let him have fun. I turned him loose and he never stopped, he kept going the whole race. He proved how good he is today."
Left: Forbidden Kingdom returns after the race. Michael Behrens of co-owner MyRacehorse said, "It's unbelievable, we were at the Derby and Breeders' Cup with Authentic and that was amazing. But to have this one and pick this horse as a baby. To go through the whole journey. To watch Mandella see him through his maturation and control his brilliant speed. And to do this today with all of these people, it's a touchdown."
Right: Forbidden Kingdom heads back to the barn after the race.
Left: Second place finisher Doppelganger in the paddock before the race. The Bob Baffert trainee improved his record to 1 win, 1 second, and 0 thirds in 3 starts, earning $123,200 for owners SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm.
Right: Third place finisher Happy Jack in the paddock. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved his record to 1 win, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 3 starts, earning $92,200 for owner-breeder Calumet Farm.
The horses break from the gate for the San Felipe Stakes.
Count Again wins the Frank E. Kilroe Mile
Jockey Victor Espinoza sent 9-1 Beyond Brilliant to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 22.46, 45.45, and 1:09.38 while pressed by 16-1 Whisper Not and stalked by 11-1 Law Professor. Turning for home Beyond Brilliant continued to lead through 7f in 1:21.28 but favorite Count Again, 10th early under Flavien Prat after saving ground, came out and outfinished Space Traveller to win by a head in 1:33.24. It was another head back to Subconscious third, and 3/4 more to pacesetter Beyond Brilliant fourth.
Left: Count Again in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "I definitely loved the fractions that (they) were running. I was just hoping we would get loose to be able to come with a run. This horse likes to just come with a big, wide, late run and we were stuck in there, but this is why this guy (Flavien Prat) is the top jock. I'm my opinion in the country. He cut the turn, angled out and got the job done at the wire. (Count Again is) just one of those dream kind of horses. You know if you have dead aim at the top of the lane with him, he's going to give you his late kick pretty much every time. He's just a fresh happy horse now and Flavien fits him well."
Right: Count Again returns after the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "It took him a little bit to get going, but once he did, he did well. I had a good trip and it worked out well. He got himself into the race and the pace was pretty hot. I was traveling super well and I thought I was behind a good horse. I was able to track him all the way. Once I got to the outside, I was able to run him down."
Left: Second place finisher Space Traveller in the paddock. The Brendan Walsh trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 25 starts, earning $745,570 for owner Clipper Logistics.
Right: Third place finisher Subconscious in the paddock before the race. The Richard Mandella trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 9 starts, earning $307,820 for owner LNJ Foxwoods.
As Time Goes By wins the Beholder Mile
Jockey Flavien Prat sent As Time Goes By to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 22.76, 46.22, and 1:10.60 while pressed by Miss Bigly and stalked by Varda. Turning for home As Time Goes By opened up a 2 length advantage through 7f in 1:24.06. Kept to task by Prat, As Time Goes By cruised the rest of the way to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Miss Bigly in 1:37.55. It was a long 7 lengths back to Varda third, and 7 1/2 more to Envoutante last.
Left: As Time Goes By in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "We got the Grade 1! I talked (the owners) into another year with her. She gets better with age. She is such an exciting and classy mare. She never breaks a sweat. Flavien was aggressive with her early and put her into the race. I think the longer the better with her. Prat knows this track and knows her well. That was cool receiving the trophy from (trainer Richard) Mandella in the Winner's Circle. These (American) Pharoah horses are fast. It's a great day for Pharoah horses (Mandella's Forbidden Kingdom won earlier in the day). American Pharoah has meant so much to racing."
Right: As Time Goes By in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "She broke a little flat foot. We kind of brushed each other and after that I had to hustler her a little bit to get (us) in the race, but after that I was travelling well and I felt like I was in control. It felt like when she felt (Miss Bigly) coming at her she kind of regrouped and went on again so, it was nice."
Left: Second place finisher Miss Bigly in the paddock. The Phil D'Amato trainee improved her record to 8 wins, 5 seconds, and 8 thirds in 27 starts, earning $741,242 for owners Agave Racing Stable, Living the Dream Stables, and Rockin Robin Racing Stables.
Right: Third place finisher Varda in the paddock. The Bob Baffert trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 4 starts, earning $314,500 for owner Baoma Corporation.
Cezanne wins the San Carlos
Jockey Edwin Maldonado sent Canadian Pride to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 22.67 and 45.42 while pressed by Cezanne and stalked by 16-1 Principe Carlo. Entering the stretch Cezanne moved up to lead through 3/4 in 1:10.47. Kept to task by Flavien Prat, Cezanne drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Principe Carlo in 1:23.45. It was a long 6 lengths back to Canadian Pride third.
Left: Cezanne in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "We missed our timing with him. He had a few setbacks, otherwise he would have been in the Big ‘Cap. He's a good handicap horse. He showed his class. I think he is a mile and quarter horse. We'll keep him going and look toward the Breeders' Cup Classic. I like what I saw today. That last race was a warm-up for him. We wanted to be close up today. (Flavian) Prat is like money right now. He knows what to do."
Right: Cezanne heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "He broke well and got himself into the race. I was travelling well and he responded well when it was time to make a move. Bob (Baffert) was telling me he was going to be really sharp today, and that was the case. I thought I was in a good spot towards the end, and he gave himself a very good chance to win the race."
Left: Second place finisher Principe Carlo in the post parade. The Librado Barocio trainee improved his record to 8 wins, 8 seconds, and 0 thirds in 25 starts, earning $445,343 for owner Mia Familia Racing Stable.
Right: Third place finisher Canadian Pride in the paddock before the race. The Peter Eurton trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 13 starts, earning $201,700 for owner C R K Stable.
The $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes (G2) featured a field of 10 older fillies and mares going 1 mile on the turf. Rodeo Drive (G1) winner and Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) 11th place finisher Going to Vegas was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 5-2 second choice Leggs Galore, winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint, and 9-2 third choice Closing Remarks, an allowance winner after finishing 9th in the American Oaks (G1).
Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez sent Leggs Galore to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.18, 46.70, and 1:10.29 while as many as 8 lengths clear of 15-2 Tony Ann and favorite Going to Vegas. Into the stretch Leggs Galore continued to lead by 3 1/2 lengths. Going to Vegas attempted to rally late but Leggs Galore held her off to win by 1/2 a length in 1:34.29. It was another 3/4 lengths back to Closing Remarks third.
Left: Leggs Galore gets a pat from her owner (who she was named after) in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "That was a pretty ambitious move (by Gonzalez to go loose on the lead). I was holding my breath there. I was just waiting for the wire to be there. We got it done. She took another step up. This was a solid open company field. She's a double threat now with Cal-Breds and open company. We'll see where we go from here."
Right: Leggs Galore heads back to the barn after the race.
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Going to Vegas in the paddock. Jockey Flavien Prat said, "I thought at the eighth pole I was going to go by him, but as soon as the winner felt me, she re-engaged. I thought she ran a good race."
Right: Third place finisher Closing Remarks in the post parade. The Carla Gaines trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 13 starts, earning $371,320 for owner-breeder Harris Farms.
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