Shirreffs-trainee pointed towards Grade I Santa Anita Handicap
ARCADIA, Calif.—C R K Stable’s Express Train sat a perfect trip and rallied through the stretch to take Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths, with his next stop scheduled to be the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 6. Trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Juan Hernandez, Express Train got a mile and one eighth over a main track listed as “good” in 1:52.13.
A close fourth, about two lengths off of Tizamagician around the Club House turn, Express Train saved ground at the rail, angled out a quarter mile from home and rallied three-deep through the lane while finding his best stride late in a very impressive effort.
“The difference was the distance (of) a mile and an eighth and different horses,” said Hernandez, who had ridden Express Train to a second place finish behind top rated Charlatan going seven furlongs in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26. “He loves going short and going long, so you can do whatever you want with him, he’s a really nice horse.
“…There were three horses that tried to go to the lead and my horse relaxed pretty well behind them…I was just waiting to (get into) the stretch to let him run, that’s what (he) did. Around the turn before the stretch, I checked, I went outside and I was clear and he started running again.”
The second choice at 5-2 in a field of five, Express Train paid $7.20, $3.60 and $2.20.
“We knew there was plenty of speed in the race and it worked out fine,” said Shirreffs. “Juan fits this horse very well, show me a horse that he doesn’t fit. When you speak to him, he exudes confidence. He’s a rider. We’ll stay home and run in the Big ’Cap (Grade I, 1 ¼ miles on March 6).”
A 4-year-old colt by Union Rags, out of the Mineshaft mare I’m a Flake, Express Train notched his first stakes win in his eighth career start. With the winner’s share of $120,000, he increased his earnings to $293,300 from an overall mark of 8-3-3-0.
Tizamagician, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, proved extra game, holding off even money favorite Idol by a neck for the place. Off at 5-1, Tizamagician paid $5.00 and $2.60.
Idol, unhurried early while an attentive last to the far turn, never threatened for the win, finishing 1 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Zestful. Ridden by eastern-based Gabriel Saez, Idol paid $2.10 to show.
Although Saturday turned out to be a spectacularly sunny day with the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains serving as a backdrop, the track took on 2.4 inches of rain through noon Friday, resulting in slower times throughout the afternoon.
Fractions on the San Pasqual were 23.84, 48.74, 1:13.70 and 1:39.26.
Express Train (Past The Wire)