The first three races on a full card of 11 this past Saturday, March 12 at Santa Anita Park started out uneventful.
Carrie Lynn Barker
Favored Shh She’s Ours and Victor Espinoza set the pace and drew clear to score a win in the First. Multiple scratches in the Second, a race taken off the turf course, left Revenue Virginius without much competition. She closed under urging from jockey, Flavien Prat and won over Zip N Bayou and Martin Garcia. Desert Madam, a morning line favorite, saw her odds dwindling in the Third but she came on strong to win, with Kent Desormeaux aboard. Heavy favorite Bayonet and Mario Gutierrez finished last in this field.
Street Surrender, at odds of 6-to-1, pulled away in the Fourth, giving Victor Espinoza his second win on the day. Seventh Sense continued the trend with 7-to-1 odds in the Fifth and pulled an upset over favorite Magical Mystery. Kent Desormeaux took the win on Seventh Sense to also give him two on the day.
Danzing Candy and Mike Smith – winners San Felipe Stakes
The fun really began in the Sixth race, which started a string of Stakes racing. The Frank Kilroe Mile on the turf saw What a View and Kent Desormeaux take an early lead, holding fast over Bolo with Mike Smith aboard, and Bal a Bali and Flavien Prat. Multiple Stakes winner Om was eased a bit by jockey Gary Stevens and had nothing left at the end. What a View survived an inquiry to keep the win, giving Kent number three.
The San Felipe Stakes, the Seventh on the card, showed Mor Spirit once again topping the betting, however Danzing Candy proved the one to beat as he set the pace and lead the field under jockey Mike Smith. Three year-old favorite Mor Spirit, an early contender for the Kentucky Derby, finished second with Exaggerator and Kent Desormeaux coming in a well-placed third. Victor Espinoza’s possible derby mount, Smokey Image, was well beaten in fifth, finishing ahead of only one rival, I Will Score. The jury is still out on which of these horses will compete in the derby but Danzing Candy definitely put on a good show.
Seabiscuit with his Big Cap flowers
Heavy favorite Beach Patrol and Rafael Bejarano battled mid-stretch with Tristan’s Trilogy and Flavien Prat to break up the Stakes action in the Eighth, leading up to the San Carlos Stakes, Ninth on the card. In the Carlos, another heavy favorite hit the wire in front. Kobe’s Back and Gary Stevens started a ‘gray trifecta,’ with the top three finishers all being gray horses. Coastline and Calculator took second and third, respectively. Last year’s winner Wild Dude looked off in the paddock and walking ring and was well beaten in sixth.
Melatonin and Joseph Talamo – Big Cap winners
The “Big Cap,” as the Santa Anita Handicap is nicknamed, has been run for ages, with horses like John Henry and Alysheba coming away as winners. Effinex, second to American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes, went off as yet another heavy favorite, with Donworth as second in the bidding. However few could have predicted the exciting outcome as 16-to-1 shot Melatonin and Joseph Talamo lead the pack then battled to keep it, leaving Hard Aces and Abel Lezcano behind. Melatonin paid $34.60 to win and put himself in the history books alongside the greats. As one of the trackside announcers was noting, “Melatonin put everyone to sleep,” and that was certainly true.
China Doll winner Mirage and Alonso Quinonez
But the day was not over as 27-to-1 longshot Mirage held off her foes in the last race of the day, the China Doll Stakes, to win a huge upset under jockey, Alonso Quinonez. The gutsy Irish-bred filly created an ‘Irish trifecta’ with Lady Valeur and Nodiac, also Irish breds, taking second and third.
Overall, a fun and exciting day of good old-fashioned racing.
— By Carrie Lynn Barker, who shares her thoughts, observations and photos of the horse-related activities from her near-weekly visits to Santa Anita Park on Saturdays during racing season (all photos by Carrie). Carrie is a photographer who lives in Monrovia with her screenwriter husband Brandon and is Chief Member Concierge at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce. Carrie has written seven stories published as ebooks and has produced several films. She has also been Operation Manager of Barfly Staff Monitoring Services since 2010.