Stilleto Boy finally gets his Grade 1 in the Big Cap (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box
ARCADIA, Calif.— With his first victory in Santa Anita’s signature race for older horses coming 31 years ago, 53-year-old Kent Desormeaux added a third Santa Anita Handicap win to his Hall of Fame resume on Saturday at The Great Race Place, as he coaxed 5-year-old gelding Stilleto Boy to a neck triumph over eastern invader Proxy.
Trained by Ed Moger and owned by his brother Steve, Stilleto Boy, a well beaten third in last year’s Big Cap, got a mile and one quarter in 2:01.96. The Grade I, $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap, presented by Yaamava’ Resort and Casino, was run for the 86th time today under increasingly cloudy skies and blustery conditions.
Breaking sharply from his number four post, Stilleto Boy relaxed into a nice rhythm while a close fourth at the rail in the run to the far turn, and with Desormeaux niggling to chestnut son of Shackleford while two from the rail leaving the three-furlong pole, Stilleto Boy had There Goes Harvard to his inside and race favorite Defunded and Hopper in front of him by about two lengths turning for home.
From there, Stilleto Boy managed to overhaul Defunded, who had spurted clear by a length a sixteenth of a mile out and he held of a valiant late charge from midwestern shipper Proxy in a thriller.
Most recently third, beaten 5 ¾ lengths going a mile and one eighth in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28, Stilleto Boy returned to steady training at his Golden Gate Fields base, which Moger noted as an advantage today, given the fact training has been repeatedly interrupted at Santa Anita by protracted wet weather.
A huge overalay off of his 5-1 morning line, Stilleto Boy was off at 13-1 in a field of nine older horses and paid $29.80, $11.00 and $4.40.
With the Grade II Californian ranking as his lone graded stakes win coming into today, Stilleto broke through with his first Grade I triumph in his ninth try today and collected $300,000. Out of the Marquetry mare Rosie’s Ransom, Stilleto Boy now has career earnings of $1,711,675 from an overall race record of 21-4-4-8.
Trained by Mike Stidham and ridden by John Velazquez, Proxy, who shipped in from Fairgrounds in New Orleans, rallied wide from far back to get up for second by a half length over Defunded on the wire. Off at 3-1, Proxy paid $4.60 and $2.60.
The 6-5 favorite with Juan Hernandez riding for Bob Baffert, Defunded tried to make every pole a winning one, but he tired just a bit late to check in third, 1 ½ lengths in front of stablemate Hopper and paid $2.40 to show.
With Moger getting his first Big Cap win at age 67, Desormeaux, who has been beset with personal issues the past few years, added Stilleto Boy’s score today to previous Big Cap victories with Best Pal in 1992 and Milwaukee Brew in 2002.
Fractions on the Big Cap were 23.34, 46.16, 1:10.72 and 1:35.10.
Grade I, $500,000, Santa Anita Handicap Quotes
Kent Desormeaux, Stilleto Boy, Winner: “I just wanted to let him run out front, but they shut me off and we had to settle back. Everything else, I followed Ed Moger’s instructions. He wasn’t enjoying himself getting hit by dirt, so we moved out and he kept going. At the three and a half, I asked him for his best, but there was nowhere to go. Then at the two and a half, I asked him again and he made the drive. I was yelling at him and pushing him and he gave me everything. I didn’t know until two jumps prior to the wire that we were going to get there. This is my third Santa Anita Handicap. I’ve come full circle. I just have to stay clean. It’s up to me.
“It took a lot of bravado for the owner and trainer to let me ride the horse again. This horse I’ve always known him as a good horse, a great horse. I willed him to win today.”
Ed Moger, Jr., Stilleto Boy, Winner: “I’ve been telling everyone that he is the best horse in racing. I really think he is the best horse, the race in the Pegasus was a really strong race and we had him go out of the 11 hole that day, Defunded barely beat us that day, so I knew we could beat him because we had beaten him before, I thought he was the horse to beat. I thought he could win, and he’s been training great.
“I wasn’t upset that they weren’t training out here. It’s got to make a difference and I’ll take it.
“Once they hit the wire, I thought we had it. I thought he was going to run second then all of a sudden everything changed, and he won
“I love the horse. It is a great race to win in California, it’s been a famous race for a long time and it feels great to win it. There was no Flightline today, no Knicks Go, or Life Is Good, so here we are. It was a perfect ride.”
Steve Moger, Stilleto Boy, Winner: “Pretty amazing, it’s been a long ride. Thanks to Kent he did a great job and my brother.”