It was a weekend for early speed at Santa Anita, with four of the five Graded contests won by front-runners. Beyond Brilliant set the tone in the feature G2 Charles Whittingham, and was matched by Stilleto Boy (G2 Californian), the blistering Brickyard Ride (G3 Kona Gold) and Sunday’s G3 Wilshere winner Canoodling. The only winner to buck the trend was Blue Stripe, who came late and fast to take the G2 Santa Margarita.
Canoodling goes all the way
The only filly in the Wilshire with a Graded win to her name doubled her tally at Santa Anita on Sunday, as Canoodling went wire-to-wire for an authoritative success.
The daughter of Pioneerof The Nile had won the G3 Megahertz over course and distance in January and repeated the dose, drawing a length and three-quarters clear of Eddie’s New Dream, with England’s Rose finishing like a rocket to get the bronze medal another half-length back. The favourite Keyflower made no show.
The race itself was straightforward. Canoodling broke on top and came out best in the dash for the clubhouse turn before setting steady fractions. Juan Hernandez – en route to his third Graded win of the weekend – asked the 7-2 second-choice for more at the top of the lane and there was plenty left, Canoodling keeping on strongly to stop the clock in a tick under 1:35. She now owns an impressive eight-for-16 resume.
“This was a breakthrough race for us,” said trainer Mike Puype. “She ran huge. She took heat the whole way and kicked clear impressively.”
Charles Whittingham Stakes
Brilliant moves one step beyond
He was going further than he’d ever been before, but Beyond Brilliant conquered the unknown and his six rivals when dominating the Charles Whittingham, the main event at Santa Anita on Saturday.
The four-year-old had won the G1 Hollywood Derby at a mile-eighth but had never stretched out further, although that didn’t stop jockey Victor Espinoza treating it as a done deal by setting the fractions from the gate. Beyond Brilliant was still going strong as he passed the eighth pole and the 3-2 favourite kicked on to win by a length and a quarter, stopping the clock in 1:58 and four-fifths.
Masteroffoxhounds, in second place practically throughout, held on to the silver medal by a half-length from Gold Phoenix in a race that only ever concerned the first three home.
“He relaxed in front, which helped him. When he gets alone on the lead he’s hard to pass,” said trainer John Shirreffs. “We thought he could get the distance but it’s always a case of what the pace is.”
Beyond Brilliant is now four-for-12 lifetime and, with his suitability for ten furlongs now undisputed, will be a candidate for all the major turf route races through the summer.
Boy becomes a man
Same horses, different tactics, different result. Stilleto Boy hadn’t got within hailing distance of Express Train the last time they met, but he turned the tables in the Californian with a bravura front-running display.
Usually the Ed Moger-trained Stilleto Boy does all his running too late, but here the 2-1 second-choice did it all early, breaking on top and never being headed. The 2-5 favourite Express Train menaced him at the top of the lane, but Stilleto Boy put him away in mid-stretch and won going away by two and a quarter lengths in 1:48 and change. It was a two-horse race; Spielberg was 22 lengths back in third in a contest reduced to four by the late scratch of Shaaz.
“I was told to be aggressive out of the gate,” said Juan Hernandez. “He broke really sharp. Around the turn Express Train was coming and he made my horse work hard all the way to the wire.”
It was only the third win of Stilleto Boy’s career, although he has hit the board in four G1s and this victory was certainly not coming out of turn. His share of the purse made him a millionaire.
Santa Margarita Stakes
Blue shows her true colors
It was a case of ‘viva Argentina!’ after the Santa Margarita, in which Blue Stripe came fast and late to spring a mild upset and record a breakthrough victory in the US.
The mare – a G1 winner in her native Argentina – had tried her luck in last year’s BC Distaff but finished out of the money for the first time in her career. Here she showed that was just a blip when rallying strongly to get home by a length from the favourite Miss Bigly, who seemed to have the race in safe-keeping inside the final furlong. There were six and a half lengths back to third-placed Varda; the time was 1:50 and one-half.
“I asked her at the three-eighths pole and she ran up to them so quick it caught me off guard,” said Tyler Baze of the 6-1 shot. “I had to tap on the brakes, and when I asked her again she accelerated and came home strong.”
It was a red-letter day for trainer Marcelo Polanco, for whom this was a first winner of the year and a first Graded-stakes success since 2008.
Kona Gold Stakes
Ride of a lifetime
It looked a simple task beforehand and it was just as easy for Brickyard Ride in the race itself, the five-year-old totally dominating the Kona Gold with a sizzling show of speed.
The 2-5 favourite only knows one way to go, and that’s to go fast, and as soon as he got out on the lead the race was in his pocket. He was four lengths clear at the top of the stretch, and was geared down by Juan Hernandez close home to hit the wire two and a quarter lengths clear of longshot Tigre Di Slugo, with three and a quarter back to Strike That in third. The stopwatch showed a tick over 1:15.
“Juan said he wanted to take it easy on him, but Brickyard Ride wouldn’t let him,” said trainer Craig Lewis. “You saw the result – he just keeps getting better and better.”
The long-term plan for Brickyard Ride, who was stretching his winning streak to four, is the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, where his versatility gives him multiple options.
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