It feels somewhat like it’s been forever since racing at Santa Anita, but finally it has returned! Opening weekend did not disappoint, with some of the biggest stars of horse racing making an appearance, and others coming into their own and getting their guaranteed berth at the Breeders’ Cup this November.
Colonel Samsen held the favorite bet from the beginning but couldn’t get up to get the win in the 1st. Instead, Curly’s Waterfront gamely came up on the rail under jockey, Tyler Baze and took the lead over 14 to 1 shot, Sergio and Martin Garcia. The combination of 5 to 1 Curly’s Waterfront and Sergio paid a $67.70 exacta to start the day.
The heavily favored, Hot Sean and Martin Pedroza did not disappoint in the 2nd race, inching away in the stretch and prevailing convincingly. The 2-year-old Flatter colt (out of Stormy B) was followed in the run by Eleutheros and Martin Garcia. Both horses ran well and look like they might have promising careers ahead of them.
Another decent long shot came through in the 3rd, with Time for Ebby and Fernando Perez won clear over favored, Really a Gem and Tyler Baze. One Smart Cat held for the show.
In the 4th, Doug O’Neill’s Basinca headed home late, taking the lead just before the wire over Big Champion and Santiago Gonzalez, who looked like they were capable in the stretch. Basinca though showed guts under Rafael Bejarano.
Victor Espinoza started a winning streak in the 5th, guiding 9 to 1 shot, Hootie to a close win at the wire. 5 to 1 shot Farley completed the exacta, paying $47.50. The following race, the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes, started with confusion, as Secret House left the gate sans jockey, Santiago Gonzalez, who stepped off the fractious colt and the gates were opened before he was back on. The victory went to Victor’s long shot, Gormley, who drew away in the stretch over heavy favorite, Klimt, and Secret House was expertly caught by an outrider with no issue. Gormley’s groom showed his pleasure as his horse won, jumping up and down and throwing his fist in the air. Espinoza was all smiles, as well. Having won this race previously on the famed American Pharoah, I imagine thoughts might go towards another Derby contender. Gormley also gets an automatic spot in the Juvenile Division at the Breeders’ Cup.
The inevitable occurred in the 7th race, the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes, as American’s favorite, California Chrome took the lead early and held it, even while being hard-pressed the entire mile and an eighteenth by the talented Dortmund. Victor Espinoza had his usual mount on ‘Chromie,’ and there was no stopping the all-time earnings leader. The crowd in attendance just to see California Chrome run was huge, and his name rang out as he hit the wire. Dortmund held convincingly for second, with Rafael Bejarano aboard. This of course gave Chrome his spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In the 8th, the Rodeo Drive Stakes (Grade II), Avenge and Flavien Prat took on the challenge from rival, Zipessa and Florent Geroux, holding fast to get the win. Avenge, the 4-year-old War Front filly will receive a post position in the Filly and Mare Turf at Breeders’ Cup.
The rivalry of Beholder and Stellar Wind came down to the wire in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes, but Stellar Wind had her head in front, giving Victor Espinoza his fourth win on the day. Gary Stevens and Beholder lost nothing in their loss to the fabulous Stellar Wind, who received a well-earned place in the Distaff on Breeders’ Cup day. The two queens of Santa Anita will hopefully go head-to-head once again and keep this amazing rivalry going.
The Chandelier Stakes (Grade I) the 10th race on the full card, had 7 to 1 long shot Noted and Quoted lead into the stretch and kept her win over 9 to 1 shot, With Honors. Under Rafael Bejarano’s urging, Noted and Quoted gained her place in the Juvenile Fillies division at Breeders’ Cup.
The last race on the card, the 11th, was the ungraded Unzip Me Stakes. The six and a half furlong down the hillside turf course had Belvoir Bay kicking clear under a hand ride from jockey, Norberto Arroyo, who only had to show the filly the whip. The 6 to 1 shot paid $14.80 to close out a beautiful day of racing.