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Joel Rosario celebrates aboard Idol after winning the Big Cap.
The highlight race of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is the $400,000 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. Conditions were typical for early March with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 60's, main track rated fast and turf going firm. Maxfield was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 8, undefeated in 5 starts including the Mineshaft (G3) last out at Fair Grounds. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Independence Hall, 3rd in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), and 5-1 third choice Express Train, winner of the San Pasqual (G2).
Idol rallies on the far outside down the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Idol Rosario 12.80 6.40 3.40 5 Express Train Hernandez 5.40 2.80 2 Maxfield Geroux 2.40 Winning Time: 2:02.46 $1 Exacta 6-5 24.20 $0.50 Trifecta 6-5-2 39.00 $0.10 Superfecta 6-5-2-1 20.26
Left: Idol in the winner's circle. Winning owner Calvin Nguyen said, "It's been a wild ride. Ritchie's put together a great team and I'm just very fortunate to be a part of it. He's just a great guy, I've known him for so long. He works hard, he's a horse lover, he's here every day. You can't dream about this, we are just very fortunate and you enjoy it while you can."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Santa Anita Handicap. Winning trainer Richard Baltas said, "I know he was running really hard around the turn, he was wide, he was far back but Joel said he didn't want any of the kick back in his face, so we took the wide route. He's got a big lovely long stride so that's why we were thinking a mile and a quarter for sure. We needed all of Joel Rosario's power in the stretch to get him home. It was a great win, it's a race you dream about winning."
Left: Idol in the post parade. Baltas added, "It's unbelievable, I've been coming here since I was 13 years old. Before I even got to be a horse trainer, I saw all the greats run here in the Big 'Cap and you never think that you're gonna be here but you keep working hard and God blessed you."
Right: Idol heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "My horse loves this distance. I just wanted to keep him away from the rail and he handled it easily. He responded when it came time to run and he had some kick. I appreciate the opportunity Richard Baltas gave me for this ride. I had never been on him. I watched all his races and I could see he tries hard every time. What a strong finish today! He ran really big."
Left: Second place finisher Express Train in the paddock. The John Shirreffs trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 0 thirds in 9 starts, earning $373,300 for owner C R K Stable.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Maxfield returns after the race. The Brendan Walsh trainee improved his record to 5 wins and 1 third in 6 starts, earning $663,262 for owner-breeder Godolphin.
Life Is Good wins the San Felipe
Jockey Mike Smith sent Life Is Good to the lead fist time by through fractions of 23.63, 46.83, and 1:10.55 while pressed by Medina Spirit and stalked by 10-1 The Great One. Turning for home Life Is Good left the field behind, finishing 8 lengths ahead of Medina Spirit in 1:42.18. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Dream Shake third.
Left: Life Is Good in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "I like the way he got away from the gate, both of my horses got away cleanly, they were in a good spot. Down the backside that's where this horse can get a little tough and I was hoping we'd get a little 47 and change. But Mike he just sat on him, he was doing it so easily, I saw 46 and four I said, 'well, I think I could live with that.'"
Right: Winning jockey Mike Smith celebrates aboard Life Is Good. Smith said, "He's learning to settle. He's maturing and getting smarter. Early on, he was so used to exploding from the pole or the gate. He's learning how to run now which is the big key, and he's learning how to get into a rhythm. The rhythm is going to be a bit fast because he is that good and he has an extremely high cruising speed. We are going to have to work on some little quirks. He starts looking at things because he is out there by himself, but I can't take so much of a hold of him to give him company either, so it's a catch-22."
Left: Life Is Good in the paddock. Smith added, "He's just so talented. I had a strong hold on him down to the wire, just holding onto him making sure that he stayed straight. This horse is like that Muhammad Ali song. He floats like a butterfly, and stings like a bee. I think he showed that he could get the distance, when a horse can get a mile and sixteenth the way he did today, it gives you every indication they could go an eighth of a mile further."
Right: Life Is Good heads back to the barn after the race. Baffert added, "'I always thought he could be a super horse, we'll find out today', but at the quarter pole I could tell he was just still cruising, just doing it easy. I just feel fortunate that I have this horse in my barn. My horse that ran second (Medina Spirit), he's a really nice horse and I felt bad I had to run him against him, but they need these races and I didn't want to ship yet so I'm just happy for the China Horse Club. It's nice to come out here, it feels a little festive today watching these good horses run."
Left: Second place finisher Medina Spirit in the post parade. Jockey John Velazquez said, "My horse broke well and settled right behind the winner. I wanted to be two or three behind. When it came time to run, I was hoping that (Life Is Good) would come back to me, but he never did. That horse (Life Is Good) ran a great race. I still think my horse absolutely has room for more improvement, so we'll see."
Right: Third place finisher Dream Shake in the paddock before the race. The Peter Eurton trainee improved his record to 1 win and 1 third in 2 starts, earning $72,600 for owner Exline-Border Racing, SAF Racing, and Richard Hausman.
The horses break from the gate for the San Felipe Stakes.
Hit the Road wins the Frank E. Kilroe Mile
Jockey Tyler Baze sent 29-1 longest shot Flying Scotsman to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.17, 47.32, and 1:11.28 while pressed by Smooth Like Strait and stalked by 5-1 fourth choice Flavius. Turning for home Flying Scotsman tired allowing Smooth Like Strait to inherit the lead through 7f in 1:22.91, but Hit the Road, 4th early under Florent Geroux, came through between horses to get up by a neck in 1:34.48. It was another neck back to late-running 16-1 Count Again third.
Left: Hit the Road in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Dan Blacker, celebrating his first Grade 1 said, "I gave myself ten years to win a grade one and luckily we got it done in year nine. I don't want to make this about me. It's all about the horse, he's such a professional animal, he is a true racehorse. He was born that way he's just a true athlete and so mentally focused on racing. I just feel so fortunate to have him and with him a great group of owners like Rick and Jim. Being with me for such a long time, they've been so patient, and I just really thrill for them all to get a win like this."
Right: Hit the Road heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Florent Geroux said, "The trip made the difference, we got very lucky with the trip. It opened up at the right time, and the horse got the job done. It was all heart. Sometimes when you have to go through a tight spot the horse doesn't necessarily cooperate, but he did great and did everything I asked him to. I couldn't be any prouder of the horse and Dan and his team for his first Grade I. They worked very hard to get to this point and I'm very happy for them. I liked my horse and (Smooth Like Strait), and I thought it was going to be very tough between those two. I was able to follow him all the way around and got through on the inside."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Smooth Like Strait in the paddock. Trainer Mike McCarthy said, "Tough to lose a close one like that. My horse had a little breather after the Mathis Brothers. It has been my plan all along to run in this and then come back in the Shoemaker. I've got a world of faith in my horse, he will win more of these than he will lose. We are still on track for the Breeders' Cup in Del Mar."
Right: Third place finisher Count Again in the post parade. Winning jockey Juan Hernandez said, "This was a lot different than the last race. My horse took a few bad steps around the turn and I pulled him up. He was training really well for this race back. When we got to the 3/8th, I knew it was time to run, so we went outside. He didn't want to pick it up on the turn, but once we hit the stretch and he changed leads, he took off. I wish we had a couple more jumps, we would have won."
Brickyard Ride wins the San Carlos
Jockey Alexis Centeno sent Brickyard Ride to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 21.63 and 43.93 while pressed by Storm the Court and stalked by 19-2 Loud Mouth. Inton the lane Brickyard Lane opened up a 5 length advantage through 3/4 in 1:09.49 and cruised the rest of the way to win by 4 lengths over late-running favorite Tigre Di Slugo in 1:21.51. It was a nose back to 13-2 Exaulted third.
Left: Brickyard Ride in the winner's circle. Winning owner Alfred Pais said, "They said there would be speed, but I thought he was the only speed. I figured if he got his way today he would be okay. Things worked out if you hang in long enough you get lucky. We knew we had a good horse starting from day one, so it was just a question of how good he was. I remember when he first got on the horse I remember Craig had in a horse the day before and I told (Alexis), 'Can I say something about my horse?' I said, 'Just go to the front and improve your position.' He said, 'That made it easy'. He loves the horse and I love this kid on him."
Right: Winning jockey Alexis Centeno celebrates his first graded stakes aboard Brickyard Ride. Centeno win said, "This is of big significance to me. Craig Lewis gave me the opportunity to work this horse and since I've been on him, he's run well for me and he's comfortable with me." Winning trainer Craig Lewis added, "Well, speed kills and he killed today with his speed. He's blessed with a lot of natural speed obviously, he's learning how to relax, he's maturing, he's a big powerful horse. He reached for ground like a horse that could run forever. He's starting to look like he could be the goods."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Tigre Di Slugo in the post parade. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "My horse got a great break out of the gate. I was really happy with our position because I felt they were really going a fast pace for seven furlongs. The problem was the winner just never stopped running. That was quite an impressive showing by the winner."
Right: Third place finisher Exaulted in the paddock before the race. The Peter Eurton trainee improved his record to 1 win, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 5 starts, earning $91,600 for owner C R K Stable.
Kicking off the 11 race card on Saturday was the $100,000 China Doll Stakes featuring a field of 6 three-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf. Jockey Juan Hernandez sent 16-1 longest shot Sweetest Angel to the front through fractions of 22.97, 46.51, and 1:10.50 while pressed by 13-2 third choice Bleu Ballon and stalked by 13-1 Golden. Sweetest Angel continued to lead through 7f in 1:22.62 before tiring, as even-money favorite Going Global, 4th early under Flavien Prat, rallied 4 wide to win by 3/4 length over 10-1 Closing Remarks in 1:34.32. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 9-5 second choice Quatroelle third.
Going Global in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "When I saw them ding donging up front, I liked where we were sitting. It was a question of when we pulled the trigger, what did we have? She responded really well. I couldn't be more delighted. That's what I wanted to see, is her taking the next step in being able to relax and go around two turns. She answered the questions today."
Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "The way she ran last time gave me a lot of confidence coming into this race today. We were going a route of ground today and I was very happy with the way she was traveling and the way she relaxed. She was very impressive."
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