ARCADIA, Calif.—Although a disappointing third as the heavy favorite in his final prep, the Richard Baltas-trained Idol seemed to relish clear sailing and a mile and a quarter, as he rallied wide turning for home to win the 84th running of the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino by a half length. Ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, Idol, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin, got the distance in 2:02.46 and provided Rosario with his third consecutive win in the Big ’Cap.
Unhurried early as longshots King Guillermo and Tizamagician carved out a solid early pace, Idol was next to last, about five lengths off the lead heading into the far turn, Idol kicked into high gear around the turn and was five-deep turning for home as Express Train hit the front while full of run under Juan Hernandez.
With Rosario employing a powerful hand ride, Idol was able to get up on the money in a thrilling finish befitting the long storied history of the Big ’Cap, which was first run in 1935.
“I know he was running really hard around the turn, he was wide, he was far back, but Joel said he didn’t want any of the kickback in his face, so we took the wide route,” said Baltas, 59. “He’s a got a big, lovely long stride, so that’s why we were thinking a mile and a quarter for sure. We needed all of Joel Rosario’s power in the stretch to get him home. It was a great win, it’s a race you dream about winning.
“It’s unbelievable, I’ve been coming here since I was 13 years old. Before I even got to be a horse trainer, I saw all the greats run here in the Big ’Cap and you never think that you’re gonna be here but you keep working hard and God blessed you.”
Third as the even money favorite in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 30, Idol was off at 5-1 in a field of eight older horses and paid $12.80, $6.40 and $3.40.
“My horse loves this distance,” said Rosario. “I just wanted to keep him away from the rail and he handled it easily. He responded when it came time to run and he had some kick…I had never been on him. I watched all his races and I could see he tries hard every time. What a strong finish today! He ran really big.”
Owned by longtime Baltas client Calvin Nguyen, Idol, who is out of the A.P. Indy mare Marion Ravenwood, notched his first stakes win today in what was his sixth career start. With the Big ‘Cap winner’s share of $240,000, he increased his earnings to $416,464 from three wins, two seconds and one third place finish.
In a tremendous effort, the John Shirreffs-trained Express Train just missed while finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of race favorite Maxfield. Off at 5-1, Express Train paid $5.40 and $2.80.
The Brendan Walsh-conditioned Maxfield, who shipped in from New Orleans unbeaten in five starts, entered the stretch four-deep while about two lengths off of Express Train, but couldn’t finish with the top two with no apparent excuses. Ridden by Florent Geroux, Maxfield was off at even money and paid $2.40 to show while finishing a half length better than Independence Hall.
Fractions on the Big ’Cap were 22.82, 47.12, 1:12.26 and 1:37.13.
With one additional race to be run following the Big ’Cap, Saturday’s all sources pari-mutuel handle reached $22,744,568 on 11 races, which compared very favorably to last year’s Big ’Cap Day total of $17,486,155 on a 12-race card.
First post time on Sunday for a nine-race program is at 12:30 p.m.
Santa Anita Handicap Replay
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Idol, (Benoit)