Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1)
THERE were three Grade 1s and a Kentucky Derby trial on the card at Santa Anita last weekend with the Santa Anita Handicap the feature. The race went to the favourite Express Train, gaining compensation for a narrow defeat last year and giving trainer John Shiffeffs a first win in the race.
Following two Grade 2 victories this campaign, Express Train went off as the 11/10 favourite in the field of seven. Carrying top-weight of 124lb, he settled and raced off the pace and jockey Victor Espinoza placed him easily in fourth on the outside, well in the clear.
Heading into the second turn, Warrant had taken the lead but Express Train took it over at the top of the stretch.
Warrant battled back but Express Train refused to let him pass and edged it by a head in 2m 3.22secs, making up for his half-length defeat last year.
“As soon as he’s in front he knows he’s got it,” Espinoza said. “He just gave me a little bit of a hard time at the end. He is a powerful horse and he needs to find rhythm.” It was nine lengths between Warrant and third-placed Stilleto Boy.
Owner Lee Searing told BloodHorse. “When they said that John Shirreffs had never won the Santa Anita Handicap, that kind of sits with me even before me and my family. To own a horse and to win a Santa Anita Handicap after all the years coming to this great place, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Time earns Grade 1
Also on the card there was a deserved Grade 1 success for the consistent mare As Time Goes By in the Tabor, Magnier and Smith Coolmore ownership.
The five-year-old, by American Pharoah out of Take Charge Lady, took the Beholder Mile by two and a half lengths.
Sent to the lead by Flavien Prat shortly after the start, she widened her advantage to the wire for an easy win.
This was her third graded win in a row since her eighth place in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff behind Marche Lorraine. It was her first Grade 1 win after running second to Swiss Skydiver in the 2021 running.
“She gets better with age. She is such an exciting and classy mare,” Baffert said afterwards.
The third Grade 1 contest was the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and this went to Phil D’Amato’s seven-year-old gelding Count Again who beat Brendan Walsh’s Clipper Logistics-owned Space Traveller by a head.
The Kentucky Derby trial on the card was the Grade 3 San Felipe Stakes over a mile and a sixteenth.
It was a second big win on the card for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah as Forbidden Kingdom romped away to a five-and-three-quarter-length success for owners MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm and trainer Richard Mandella.
Racing on fast splits of a half mile in 45.90secs, and 1m10.46secs for the mile, the even-money favourite came away from the pack and coasted home over second favourite Doppelganger. He earned 50 Derby qualifying points and his next race will be the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 9th at Santa Anita.
Simplification takes Fountain of Youth
AT Gulfstream, the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth was marred by two fallers. The Bill Mott-trained Galt and High Oak were reported to be okay after both horses went down on the far turn.
The race was won by Simplification who improved off a runner-up finish to White Abarrio in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes.
Trained by Antonio Sano, Simplification had been compromised by a bad break in the Holy Bull. The son of Not This Time notched his first graded-stakes win.
Simplification moved wide around the far turn, avoiding the two fallers, and took the lead entering the stretch, kicking away to a three-and-a-half-length victory. Another son of In This Time, In Due Time, was second.
“Five years later, history repeated itself,” Sano said following the win in the race he won with Gunneverra. “We have an awesome horse. Simplification has done everything right with every step since he got to the barn.”
The Grade 1 Florida Derby is his next target. Jockeys Joel Rosario and Junior Alvarado were not seriously hurt but Paco Lopez received a 14 day suspension for the causing the incident.
The Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct was the next trial on the New York circuit and it went to Morello who remained unbeaten in three runs and now sits fourth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings after his four-and-a-half-length success for Steve Asmussen.
The next step is the nine-furlong Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes on April 9th which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Trainer Wesley Ward lost three horses last weekend after a fire brook out in his barn caused by electrical storms in the Lexington.
The three horses that were killed included Strike The Tiger who was the pony that accompanied Ward’s horses every year overseas for the Royal Ascot meeting and to York.