Yet another rainy So Cal week led to a beautiful and dry (though cloudy) day at Santa Anita Park. The last couple weeks have been big on Derby horses, and the great McCraken took home the Sam F Davis Stakes in record time at Tampa Bay Downs. Here in California, there were a few notable horses running, but none so impressive as McCraken, who could be the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby in May.
A couple scratches left a field of five in the 1st, which was taken off the wet turf. The track was labeled wet fast, and Poshsky and Jamie Theriot drifted out but kept his short lead to win. Favorite, Fritz Johansen didn’t seem to enjoy the mud and came in fourth.
Though off slow, Papaslilprincess had plenty left in the 2nd, keeping to the rail through the race and inching ahead under jockey, Brayan Pena. Papaslilprincess held off Veronica Bay and Tiago Pereira, who came on gamely to finish second. The favorite, Individual Design was best of the rest.
Loud Stalker went off as the favorite in the 3rd and did not let the bettors down, coming home late to win by a small margin over First Class Boy and Santiago Gonzalez, after a close stretch duel. Tyler Baze had the mount on the winner.
The Santa Maria Stakes was the first in back-to-back Grade II stakes races. There was no stopping the formidable force of Vale Dori, the five-year-old Bob Baffert trained mare. She went off at the 1 to 5 favorite and, with Mike Smith aboard, she led clear of the pack and finished first. It was uncertain how she’d fare after acting up in the gate and tossing Smith out the back, but she proved professional during the race. Show Stealer and Tyler Baze took the place, and longshot, Autumn Flower and Flavien Prat held on for the show.
The Arcadia Stakes, the second Grade II on the card, saw Conquest Enforcer as the starting favorite, but Conquest Enforcer and Flavien Prat were no match for a late running Bolo, who just got up at the wire. What a View and Tyler Baze just held on for the place, with Conquest Enforcer settling for the show. Ring Weekend just missed the show and finished fourth. Mike Smith took home his second graded stakes win on the day on Bolo, with his wins in the 4th and 5th.
The 6th gave Flavien Prat a win on Over Achiever, the second favorite at the start. Over Achiever stalked the pace then took the lead coming into the stretch and cleared the field, finishing first ahead of 24 to 1 longshot, Brother Soldier and Brayan Pena. The winning exacta paid $50.40.
At the break of the 7th, Celebrated Talent, the 2 to 1 favorite, reared up in the starting gate, nearly losing jockey Rafael Bejarano. Bejarano held on, but the seven-year-old gelding never quite recovered from this rocky start and finished at the back of the field. This left the field open to Heir of Storm and Austin Solis, who dueled early but took the lead in the stretch and inched away to win. Lilly’s Finale and Jes Jaa completed the order of finish for a $293.30 trifecta payout.
Aristocratic went off at the odds on favorite at the start of the 8th and did not disappoint.
Expertly ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Aristocratic only needed a late tap of the whip to dig in for the win. The Party Factor was clearly second best, with Vinnie Bednar aboard, and Psychedelicat and Mike Smith held onto the show.
Another favorite took home the win in the 9th, with Ritzy A.P. and Victor Espinoza getting ahead close to the wire, edging out Calle Kingpin and Stewart Elliott. Troublewithatee and Joseph Talamo were best of the rest. The race day ended in a somber mood, as Eaglemaker broke down in the stretch, tossing jockey, Rafael Bejarano underfoot and at the rail. An inquiry into the incident concluded Eaglemaker broke down on his own, but it took quite some time before Bejarano was able to get on his feet, and he walked away under his own power. Sadly, Eaglemaker was euthanized. The look on the faces of the other jockeys as they waited, including Espinoza, showed their deep concern for one of their own.
Never the way any day should end, and condolences go out to the connections of Eaglemaker and hope Rafael Bejarano is doing okay.