ARCADIA, CA – The final stakes race of the day was a call for bombs away when the 12/1 shot Air Strike flew from last to first to bomb the tote board and win Saturday’s $200,000 Triple Bend Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 6 under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., Air Strike settled back and well outside in the clear while Cistron led through opening fractions of :22.10 and :44.53. As the field entered the far turn, Air Strike began to move. Running three- and four-wide by the time he hit the top of the stretch, Air Strike set his sights on Cistron, who had opened up by over 3 lengths.
Grinding away with every step, Air Strike caught Cistron in the shadow of the wire, and in the last jump before crossing it, he was a head in front for the victory. The Phil D’Amato trainee completed the 7-furlong sprint over the fast main track in a final time of 1:23.12.
“This horse ran great,” said Arroyo, Jr. “It was a basic, easy ride from coming off the pace. I give all the credit to God, and Phil, who brought the horse ready. I just took him out; he did it all himself.”
Taking nothing away in defeat, Cistron was 1 1/2 lengths clear of Nero in third. Afterward, jockey Victor Espinoza couldn’t believe that he got caught right at the wire.
“That was a tough one,” Espinoza said. “I knew the fractions were fast, but he was in charge. I knew that other horse was coming and my horse tried really hard. It’s a tough loss; we just couldn’t hold him off.”
The 9/5 favorite American Anthem saved ground early but had nothing left when the real running began and had to settle for fourth. Majestic Eagle headed All Out Blitz for fifth, while behind them came Law Abidin Citizen and an eased The Hardest Way to complete the order of finish.
Air Strike’s win was his first in his third graded stakes attempt, having finished fourth in the Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) last month at Lone Star Park and sixth in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) here last December. The 4-year-old son of Street Sense improved his record to 10-3-2-1 with $279,310 earned for co-owners Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Stables, and Michael Nentwig.
“He made a huge move that day at Lone Star, he just petered out that last 1/8 of a mile,” D’Amato said. “We were left scratching our heads: is he a late-running sprinter? Is he a grass miler? And we answered that today. He’s got the pedigree, the looks, and he just looks like a great horse, he just has to put it all together. Norberto brought him a long way today. Hopefully, we will keep going forward.”
Air Strike returned $27.40 to win, $10.40 to place, and $4.60 to show. Cistron brought back $5.80 to place and $3.40 to show, while Nero paid $3.60 to show.