In a thrilling stretch drive, it’s Conclude by a nose over favored First Peace in the $100,000 Desert Code Stakes. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Santa Anita Press Box
ARCADIA, Calif.—Racing as a team the final quarter of a mile, Juan Hernandez, aboard Conclude, kept even money favorite First Peace and Mike Smith at bay by a scant nose in Sunday’s $100,000 Desert Code Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Trained by Phil D’Amato, Conclude got the trip in 1:11.25.
Beaten 5 ½ lengths by First Peace as the 3-5 favorite down the hill in the ungraded John Shear Stakes April 9, Conclude broke like a shot and went straight to the front with First Peace in close attendance, one length back five sixteenths of a mile from home and although she got on terms with the winner, First Peace could never quite gain the advantage in a thrilling finish.
“Today, Phil brought this horse ready to win this race,” said Hernandez, who was aboard the winner for the first time today. “In the post parade, this horse was feeling really good. I had a really good break out of the gate, so I went to the lead.
“After the clean break, I had a clean trip too and we got the win at the wire. I felt the outside horse (First Peace) when he came to me, he wanted to pass me but when I asked my horse, he responded and was fighting all the way down the stretch. He didn’t want to get beat today.”
A 5 ½ furlong maiden turf winner two starts back, Conclude, who is owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC and his breeder, Brereton C. Jones, was off at 8-5 in a field of six sophomores and paid $5.40, $3.00 and $2.60.
“Hat’s off to Billy Koch and Gary Fenton (of Little Red Feather Racing), they have been really good supporters of mine,” said D’Amato. “It was good to have a nice weekend with them, especially getting this horse back on track. We had high expectations for him when he broke his maiden and he had a legitimate excuse last time, but you still never know until they (prove it). I thought he (came with) a top effort today.
“We will see, maybe a mile with this horse. I’ve got to get him to relax a little bit more. Like Juan said, he’s just a little rambunctious in the gate. I think if we can get him to relax and settle down, a mile is within his scope and we’ll see from there.”
Bred in Kentucky, Conclude is by Collected and is out of the Proud Citizen mare Believe You Can. With the win, he picked up $60,000, increasing his earnings to $119,600 while getting his second win from four overall starts.
(D’Amato also teamed with Little Red Feather Racing and Madaket Stables yesterday at Pimlico Racecourse, as their Beer Can Man took the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint).
Trained by Mark Glatt, First Peace did everything but win in a big effort and paid $2.60 and $2.20 while finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of Ransomware.
Also trained by D’Amato and ridden by Ramon Vazquez, Ransomware was last at the half mile pole and finished well to be third by 2 ¼ lengths over English-bred Mas Rapido. The longest shot in the field at 17-1, Ransomware paid $4.40 to show.
Fractions on the Desert Code were 21.25, 42.50 and 1:05.07.
Racing resumes with first post time for an eight-race card on Friday at 1 p.m.