|ARCADIA, Calif. —Clearly asserting himself as the top rider on the West Coast, Juan Hernandez sent Stilleto Boy to the lead and never allowed heavily favored Express Train to get on even terms as Stilleto Boy, in a huge effort, took Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita by 2 ¼ lengths, setting the stage for a potential showdown at a mile and one quarter in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup here on May 30. Trained by Ed Moger and owned by his brother Steve, Stilleto Boy, a 4-year-old gelding by Shackleford, got a mile and one eighth in 1:48.07.
Sent from his outside post in a field of four, Stilleto Boy outran Express Train and Holden the Lute around the Club House turn and despite a determined effort from the favorite three sixteenths of a mile from home, Stilleto Boy never looked a loser.
“I worked him a couple of times,” said Hernandez, who notched his second stakes win of the day and now trails the recently departed Flavien Prat 72-65 in the Winter/Spring Meet standings. “Last time (a bullet five furlongs in 58.80 on April 23), he impressed me a lot. He worked really sharp and really fast. He was doing everything by himself…Mr. Moger told me to be aggressive out of the gate and put him into the race and he helped me a lot, too.
“He broke really sharp and put himself on the lead and held onto it. Express Train is another really nice horse. He ran really well and he was right next to me the whole time and around the (far) turn, it looked like he was going to pass by. He made me work really hard today.”
Most recently third, beaten nine lengths by Express Train in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 5 and a solid third two starts back behind Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Life Is Good in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Jan. 29, Stilleto Boy was off as the 2-1 second choice with Hernandez up for the first time and paid $6.00 and $2.10 with no show wagering.
“I thought he ran a winning race in Florida and I think he ran just as good today,” said Moger, who in winning his first race from eight tries with Stilleto Boy, helped put him over the $1 million mark in earnings. “He beat a good horse today. We’ve been thinking about the Hollywood Gold Cup as long as he ran good here.”
Graded stakes placed on three occasions with Moger, Stilleto Boy got his first graded stakes win today and with the winner’s check of $120,000, increased his earnings to $1,031,175.
Express Train, fresh off victory in the Santa Anita Handicap and a winner of three consecutive stakes at the current meet dating back to victory in the Grade II San Antonio Dec. 26, was the 2-5 favorite with Victor Espinoza up and finished some 22 lengths in front of Spielberg while paying $2.10 to place.
Fractions, all set by the winner, were 22.92, 46.30, 1:09.70 and 1:34.96.
|$200,000, GRADE II, CALIFORNIAN STAKES QUOTES
JUAN HERNANDEZ, STILLETO BOY, WINNER: “I worked him a couple of times. Last time, he impressed me a lot, he worked really sharp and really fast. He was doing everything by himself. Mr. Moger told me he was doing really good and he was ready for this race. He was!
“Mr. Moger told me to be aggressive out of the gate and put him in the race, and he helped me a lot too. He broke really sharp and put himself on the lead and held on to it.
“(Express Train) is another really nice horse, he ran really well and he was right next to me the whole time and around the turn, it looked like he was going to pass by. He made me work really hard today.”
ED MOGER, JR., STILLETO BOY, WINNER: “We didn’t tell Juan to go to the lead, we just said to hustle him out of there and get him into the race and things worked out good. I thought he ran a winning race in Florida and I think he ran just as good today. He beat a good horse today. We’ve been thinking about the Hollywood Gold Cup (Grade I, 1 ¼ miles at Santa Anita May 30) as long as he ran good here.”
STEVE MOGER, STILLETO BOY, WINNER: “I was looking for a horse and he had just won the Iowa Derby (on July 2, 2021). I liked the way he looked and I watched his races and I said, ‘Let’s take a shot.’ I didn’t even tell Ed we got him until after the deal was done. ‘By the way, I’m sending you a horse!’ He ran great today and this puts him over a million dollars in earnings so it’s pretty exciting.”
Santa Anita Press Release