ARCADIA, Calif. – In search of his fourth consecutive graded stakes win at the current meeting, the John Shirreffs-trained Express Train steams into Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita as a complete standout as five 3-year-olds and up go a mile and one eighth in preparation for the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup on May 30.
A gutty head winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at a mile and one quarter on March 5, C R K Stable’s Express Train posted a 3 ¼ length score in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 5 and he got the ball rolling with a nose victory in the Grade II San Antonio at 1 1/16 miles on opening day, Dec. 26.
A 5-year-old horse by Union Rags, Express Train, who was off as the even money favorite in the Big ‘Cap, posted a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure, one of five triple digit Beyer’s dating back to his win in the 2021 San Pasqual. With the Grade I Gold Cup figuring as an immediate objective, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5 looms his ultimate objective.
The leading money earner in the field with $1,325,800, Express Train, who has five graded stakes wins, is 17-7-4-3 overall.
Although he was a big third, beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Life Is Good two starts back in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream on Jan. 29, Stilleto Boy disappointed in the Santa Anita Handicap, as he never threatened while finishing third, nine lengths behind Express Train at odds of 2-1.
Trained by Ed Moger and owned by his brother Steve Moger, Stilleto Boy, who will be ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez, figures to be hustled into contention early on Saturday. A 4-year-old gelding by Shackleford, Stilleto Boy, who earned a lofty 104 Beyer in the Pegasus World Cup, is 14-2-3-6 overall with earnings of $911,175.
Claimed out of a dazzling 3 ¾ length win going a flat mile for a $50,000 tag on April 3, Hronis Racing’s Holden the Lute, who recorded a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure, looms an upset threat as he tries to stretch his speed to a mile and one eighth for the first time with hot-riding Ramon Vazquez taking over.
Trained by John Sadler, Holden the Lute, a 5-year-old gelding by Midnight Lute, will try stakes competition for the first time. With an overall mark of 21-4-4-2, Holden the Lute has earnings of $146,300.
THE GRADE II CALIFORNIAN WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 6 of 12 Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT
- Spielberg–Abel Cedillo–120
- Holden the Lute–Ramon Vazquez–120
- Express Train–Victor Espinoza–124
- Shaaz–Mike Smith–120
- Stilleto Boy–Juan Hernandez–120
First post time for a 12-race card on Saturday is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Express Train (Benoit Photo)