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ARCADIA, CA – Waiting until the right moment to strike paid off handsomely for Hit the Road, who circled the field before kicking clear to win Sunday’s $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 3 under Victor Espinoza at 7/1 odds, Hit the Road trailed along the rail heading into the clubhouse turn and had to check off of Encoder‘s heels. Up front, War Beast set opening fractions of :23.21 and :46.81.
Given the cue heading into the far turn, Hit the Road hit the gas and soon tipped out wide, beginning to circle his foes. Running five abreast at the top of the stretch, Hit the Road swung to the lead with ease.
Kicking ahead near the 1/16 pole, the Dan Blacker trainee crossed 2 1/4 lengths clear in a final time of 1:34.33 for the mile-long event over the firm turf course.
“This was my first time on this horse and he showed me a lot,” Espinoza said. “(Encoder) came out on me going into the first turn, so I had to take him back, and we ended up last around the turn. I was really impressed with how he handled it because when I asked him to pick it up, he was very strong. He’s got a long stride and he covers a lot of ground. That was impressive.”
Despite getting passed in the stretch, War Beast had enough left to neck out Billy Batts for second. Encoder, the 4/5 favorite, was fourth ahead of Hariboux. Completing the order came Club Aspen and Cool Runnings.
Hit the Road’s win was his second straight, having broken his maiden over the Del Mar turf on July 28. The 2-year-old son of More Than Ready now carries a record of 3-2-0-0 with $96,951 earned for co-owners D K Racing, Radley Equine, Taste of Victory Stables, and Rick Gold.
“We put together the ownership group after the yearling sales last year and it is just a really fun group of people,” Blacker said. “There are loads of them, but it is just a really cool group. Everyone is really excited to get a good horse. We’re thankful to Craig Rounsefell for picking him out.”
Hit the Road returned $16.60 to win, $8.40 to place, and $5 to show. War Beast brought back $16.20 to place and $8 to show, while Billy Batts paid $4 to show.
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