ARCADIA, CA – Sporting the same silks and hailing from the same connections as Triple Crown champion Justify, the Bob Baffert-trained American Anthem needed every ounce of luck left over from his stablemate’s success on Saturday to edge St. Joe Bay at the wire in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking sharply from post 4 under Mike Smith as the heavy 4-5 favorite, American Anthem sat just off of St. Joe Bay through initial splits of :22.21 and :44.46 for the opening 1/2-mile. Given his cue at the top of the stretch, American Anthem began inching past his rival, but St. Joe Bay refused to give way. With 1/16 remaining and Smith continuing to give American Anthem strong urging, St. Joe Bay began creeping back up along the inside, giving the crowd of over 17,000 fans a thrilling stretch run. In the shadow of the wire, American Anthem was able to just hold off his stubborn foe by a head in a final time of 1:22.12 for the 7-furlong main track event.
“I caught such a good (break from the gate) that I just thought I needed to stay out of his way,” Smith said. “I thought all I could do was mess it up at that point. St. Joe Bay was running along so easy that I thought I should keep a little pressure on him, and I’m glad I did because I needed every bit of it to get by him.”
St. Joe Bay’s stablemate Horse Greedy was closing late on the top pair but ran out of time and had to settle for third. El Huerfano nosed out American Anthem’s stablemate Dabster for fourth, with Stone Hands, Touching Rainbows, and Top of the Game completing the order of finish.
American Anthem’s win was his second in as many 2018 starts and his third career graded stakes score, following triumphs last year in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens. The 4-year-old son of Bodemeister improved his career record to 10-5-1-2 with earnings of $673,945 for owners WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing.
“I took him to Kentucky, ran him there and he did really well off the layoff,” said Baffert. “But today, he looked a little heavy, I don’t know why. He’s put on a few pounds since the last race. I think he’s just getting better with age. That other horse was putting up a big fight and it looked like he had him put away, but Anthem got him. I was talking to Mike and said, ‘We got to get another win,’ because it’s pretty tough after winning a Triple Crown, but still, life goes on and you’ve got to keep winning. Big Money Mike, if he’s got the horse under him, he’s getting the job done.”
American Anthem returned $3.80 to win, $3 to place, and $2.10 to show. St. Joe Bay brought back $21 to place and $12 to show, while Horse Greedy paid $6.40 to show.