ARCADIA, CA – Thanks to recent acquisition Combatant, trainer John Sadler and owner Hronis Racing celebrated victory for a record third straight year in the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.
Breaking from post 6 under Joel Rosario at 9/1 odds, Combatant settled into stride four-wide heading into the clubhouse turn, with Rosario choosing a wider trip in order to keep Combatant in the clear. Up front, Brown Storm posted opening fractions of :23.66, :47.87, and 1:12.37 while the 3/5 favorite Midcourt gave closest chase.
Inching along as he entered the far turn still running three-wide, Combatant soon ranged up alongside Midcourt and emerged onto the top of the stretch with a slim lead. Continuing to run strongly while Midcourt and Multiplier presented tough challenges along the inside, Combatant fought gamely to keep his head in front through to the wire.
Crossing a neck ahead of the rail-skimming Multiplier in a photo finish, Combatant completed the 1 1/4-mile event over the fast main track in a final time of 2:02.32.
“It’s beautiful – it was nice to win and to win it for John,” said Rosario, who inherited the ride after Rosario’s original mount, the Sadler-trained and defending champion Gift Box, was a day-of scratch. “I feel sorry that my other horse scratched, but this was a nice thing to make up for that. He was in a good spot. It looked like they didn’t go too fast – it was a good pace for us. He was very comfortable where he was and I was happy with how he progressed.”
Multiplier edged Midcourt by a 1/2-length to take second as the longest shot on the board at 33/1. Brown Storm faded to fourth, necking out Endorsed for that placing. Hofburg and Two Thirty Five completed the order of finish.
Gift Box’s scratch was later revealed to be due to an ankle injury, according to a report first published by the Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen.
Combatant’s win was his first in two starts since Hronis Racing purchased him for $220,000 at the end of 2019 and improved his overall record to 24-4-5-4. The 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy, previously thought to be a graded-stakes career also-ran after failing to win his last 10 starts at that level, has now earned $1,032,498 lifetime.
“As a little kid coming to the racetrack, we always came to the Santa Anita Handicap,” said Kosta Hronis, who runs under Hronis Racing along with his brother, Pete. “To be in the race is an honor, and to win it three times in a row, that is just a tribute to John Sadler and his team. Three different horses, three different years (including Accelerate in 2018). Gift Box got scratched as the 6/5 favorite, so we brought the 12/1 up and we just win the race. That’s just what he does.”
Combatant returned $21.20 to win, $10.20 to place, and $4 to show. Multiplier brought back $28 to place and $6.40 to show, while Midcourt paid $2.20 to show.