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Hembree Claims Joe Hernandez
Credit: Ernie Belmonte

Hembree Claims Joe Hernandez

ARCADIA, CA – Making his first start since being tagged by new trainer Peter Miller, Tom Kagele’s Hembree claimed victory in Friday’s $200,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Hembree broke from post 4 under Joel Rosario at 5/1 odds and settled well off the pace at the rear of the field as his Peter Miller stablemate Texas Wedge fought with P R Radio Star and the 2/1 favorite Wildman Jack for the early lead.

Patiently kept to the rail saving ground for the first half of the race, Hembree caught the rest of the field in the far turn and snuck through an opening at the top of the stretch.

True Valour kicked into high gear running four-wide off the far turn and looked like he might run off, but Hembree’s ground-saving trip gave him the advantage.

Hembree crossed 3/4 of a length ahead of True Valour while completing the 6 1/2-furlong firm turf sprint in 1:13.80.

Credit: Ernie Belmonte

“Pete told me to let him be early and try to make one run with him,” Rosario said. “He broke well and I thought we were in a good spot, not too far off the lead. He made a nice move around the turn, and when that other horse (True Valour) came to him, he tried very hard.”

Blitzkrieg won the four-way photo for third, edging out Texas Wedge, Chaos Theory, and Wildman Jack.

P R Radio Star completed the order of finish.

EncoderOiseau de GuerreMesut, and Ohio were scratched.

Hembree’s win was his second straight following a one-turn dirt mile event at Churchill Downs, out of which he was claimed by his current connections. The 7-year-old intact son of Proud Citizen, winner of the 2018 Nearctic Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, improved his overall record to 40-8-10-8 with $927,371 earned.

“It really was just a fantastic ride by Joel, that’s why he’s one of the world’s best,” Miller said. “He’s a very fast horse; he runs fast figures and fast Beyers. The question to me was whether the 6 1/2 (furlongs) was too short for him, but he answered the question the right way.”

Hembree returned $12.40 to win, $6.20 to place, and $3.60 to show. True Valour brought back $7.40 to place and $5 to show, while Blitzkrieg paid $4 to show.

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