Johnny Podres from Last to Win in Sensational Star

March 25, 2024

Veteran Gelding Johnny Podres (#6) rallies from last to earn 1st Stakes win in $100,000 Sensational Star for California-Breds on the Hiillside Turf Course. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Missed The Cut Kicks Clear Late Under Fresu To Win The GIII, San Luis Rey 

Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.—In his 36th career start, veteran gelding Johnny Podres earned the biggest win of his career Saturday at Santa Anita with a narrow victory in the $100,000 Sensational Star for older California-breds on the hillside turf course

Ridden by Geovanni Franco, Johnny Podres (5-1) was last of seven when the field passed the dirt crossing into the stretch in the about 6 ½-furlong Sensational Star. He launched his rally on the far outside just as Lovesick Blues, who was also in the second half of the field, also found his best stride under Juan Hernandez. Johnny Podres edged past Lovesick Blues (9-2) inside the eighth pole and kept to his task to prevail by a head.

This was the first stakes win for Johnny Podres, who trainer Librado Barocio claimed for $40,000 11 months ago at Santa Anita. This was also the first stakes win of the Classic Meet for both Barocio and Franco.

“Johnny Podres is a horse that always will give you his best,” Franco said.

“Coming down the hill he was a little eager to go but he waited for me to give him the command. Once we crossed the dirt he took off from there.” Lovesick Blues, trained by Steve Miyadi for owner-breeder Nick Alexander, finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Clovisconnection (3-1) in third. Catalina Eddy, the 2-1 favorite for trainer Craig Lewis, was another neck back in fourth

Johnny Podres was claimed last April from Miyadi and Alexander. The 7-year-old by Grazen, who now races for owner David A. Bernsen and Mia Familia Racing Stables, improved his career record to 8-8-6 in 36 starts with $422,870 in earnings.

Since joining Barocio’s barn, Johnny Podres had been limited to minor awards before finally breaking through 23 days ago with Franco up in a $50,000 claimer going six furlongs on turf. His best previous finish in a stakes was a runner-up effort in the California Flag for statebreds on the hillside turf course last October.

“Last time he ran for the $50,000 tag and I was praying that nobody would take him,” Barocio said. “Geovanni gave him a perfect ride and he won. When he came back to the barn, he kind of puffed up and it was like he got his confidence back. I was telling my friends today that he was going to run really big and thank God he did. He ran a lights-out race and I’m so proud of him.”

Johnny Podres, who won in a final time of 1:12.57, returned $12.80, $6.60 and $4.00. Lovesick Blues returned $6.40 and $4.00 and Clovisconnection paid $4.60 to show.

Fractions for the race were 22.14, 44.66 and 1:07.11.

$100,000 Sensational Star Stakes Quotes

Jockey Quotes
Juan Hernandez, Lovesick Blues, Second: “I had a good trip my horse broke really good out of the gate.  I was a little far back, but I was feeling really good. He broke sharp and I was having a really nice trip. When we crossed the dirt, I felt like a winner because my horse was catching horses.  At the sixteenth pole I saw the outside horse come up to me and I just got beat by the better horse. I am really happy with my horse he gave me everything he had. We lost today but he is going to be okay next time.”

Trainer Quotes
Librado Barocio, Johnny Podres, Winner: “Mr.  Alexander, he did a great job, he breeds so many great horses. My partner David Bernsen, he believes in me and let’s me put him where I feel like he could win. To have an owner or partner like that it is just heaven sent because there’s no pressure. This horse just wants to win.”

Missed The Cut Kicks Clear Late Under Fresu To Win The GIII, $100,000 San Luis Rey 

Missed The Cut. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Missed The Cut. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Missed the Cut made it two graded stakes wins in as many starts this year when prevailing in Saturday’s GIII, $100,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 ½ miles on turf at Santa Anita.  

With new jockey Antonio Fresu in the irons, Missed the Cut was tipped out three-wide at the top of the stretch and then outran runner-up Planetario to score by 1 ¼ lengths as the even-money favorite. Offlee Naughty, last year’s San Luis Rey winner who was returning from a 5 ½ month layoff, was another 1 ¾ lengths back in third.

Missed the Cut won in a final time of 2:26.98 on a course listed as good. Balladeer and Victor Espinoza, who finished fourth, set fractions of 24.45, 48.66, 1:12.78, 1:37.78 and 2:02.45.

This is the second consecutive graded stakes that Missed the Cut, trained by John Sadler, and Planetario finished one-two. In the GIII San Marcos at 1 ¼ miles Feb. 10, Missed the Cut with Flavien Prat aboard also beat Planetario by exactly 1 ¼ lengths.

“I was really happy when I got the mount,” Fresu said. “He was a big favorite, and I didn’t miss it.  He’s a very cool horse to ride. The pace wasn’t really strong, so I was just trying to switch him off behind the leader.  When the others kicked, John told me to just wait for the last call. When I pulled him out, I thought he won pretty easy.”

Missed the Cut returned $4.00, $2.40 and $2.10 for the popular victory. Planetario paid $2.20 and $2.10 with Offlee Naughty returning $2.20 to show.

For Sadler, this is his first win in the San Luis Rey, which was first run in 1952.

“The San Luis Rey is one of our great races here at Santa Anita,” Sadler said. “This horse is doing really well. I didn’t necessarily plan to run him, but he’s so good you want to keep him busy.”

Missed the Cut is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred full horse by Quality campaigned by Bee Zee LLC, Lanes End Racing, St. Elias Stables, LLC, Edward Babington, Edward Hudson, Jr., and Lynne Hudson. He made his first five starts overseas before arriving at Sadler’s barn last spring.

Missed the Cut is now 7-2-0 in 15 starts with $445,777 in earnings. Last year, he won the 1 ½-mile GIII Tokyo City on dirt at Santa Anita prior to a last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Prior to his win last month in the San Marcos, he finished second behind the well-regarded Easter in the GII San Gabriel at 1 1/8 miles on turf Dec. 26, opening day of the Santa Anita Classic Meet. 

Live racing resumes Friday at Santa Anita with a nine-race card starting at 1 p.m.

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