ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 2, 2021)–In a classic blanket finish that the race’s namesake would’ve relished, two noses, a length and a neck separated the first five finishers in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita.
With the gutty 7-year-old California-bred gelding Acclimate running his heart out on the lead, race favorite United, who appeared beaten while eighth and very wide at the quarter pole, was just up on the outside of a three-horse spread in a truly dramatic finish, getting a mile and one quarter in 1:58.41 which provided Prat with his fourth win on the day.
Unhurried while about nine lengths off the lead as the field came under the wire the first time around, United settled into a steady rhythm with Prat riding confidently down the backside. Six-wide turning for home with about eight lengths to make up, United held true to a win-lose-win pattern that goes back nine starts to July 26, 2020 as he approaches what will be his third appearance in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
“I thought I got it, but I heard there was a picture, so I guess it was pretty close, closer than I thought,” said Prat, who has ridden the 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding in 17 out of his 19 starts in America, winning eight of them. “It took me forever to get up, so I didn’t see the picture, actually. It’s always great to win a race prior to the Breeders’ Cup and it seems like he’s doing great…It is really fun to be around him.”
Most recently a troubled fourth in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap Aug. 21, United was off as the 7-5 favorite in a field of 12 three-year-olds and up and paid $4.80, $3.40 and $2.40.
“I didn’t think he quite got there,” said Mandella. “I was accepting second, third and another good race. But what a great feeling when they said he won. I always expect it, but it doesn’t always happen…We’ll aim for the Breeders’ Cup. He’s like a part of the family. He’s an old gelding, been around a long time.
“You tend to get to know him as well as you know people. He likes seeing us and we like seeing him.”
Owned by LNJ Foxwoods, United banked $120,000 and increased his earnings to $1,813,549 and improved his overall race record to 22-10-4-1.
Acclimate, who seems better than ever at age seven, ran much too good to lose under Ricky Gonzalez and paid $6.80 and $4.00 while off at 7-1.
Another nose back in third, Friar’s Road, who rallied from last under Umberto Rispoli, was between the first and second place finishers on the money in a huge effort. Off at 4-1, he paid $3.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.70, 46.32, 1:11.42 and 1:35.01.
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Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: United, (Benoit)