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ARCADIA, CA – Trainer Dan Black saddled his first Grade 1 winner when Hit the Road gamely drove up the rail late to win Saturday’s $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Hit the Road broke from post 2 under new jockey Florent Geroux (who inherited the mount after Umberto Rispoli opted to ride the 5/2 favorite Smooth Like Strait) and settled into a ground-saving trip behind Smooth Like Strait and early leader Flying Scotsman.
After opening fractions of :23.17, :47.32, and 1:11.28, Flying Scotsman gave way along the rail, giving the lead over to Smooth Like Strait at the top of the stretch.
Hit the Road found a seam between Smooth Like Strait and the fading Flying Scotsman, then shot to the rail and took command halfway home.
Holding sway in the late stages, Hit the Road crossed a neck clear while completing the firm turf mile in 1:34.48.
“It was all heart,” Geroux said. “Sometimes when you have to go through a tight spot, the horse doesn’t necessarily cooperate, but he did great and did everything I asked him to. I couldn’t be any prouder of the horse and Dan and his team for his first Grade 1. They worked very hard to get to this point and I’m very happy for them. I liked my horse and (Smooth Like Strait), and I thought it was going to be very tough between those two. I was able to follow him all the way around and got through on the inside.”
Smooth Like Strait was a neck in front of Count Again, who rallied from last to take third by a 1/2-length over Flavius.
Royal Ship, Casa Creed, Ride a Comet, Spirit Animal, Flying Scotsman, and Social Paranoia completed the order of finish.
Hit the Road’s win was his fourth straight, beginning with a local optional claiming event here last May and continuing in the Oceanside Stakes and the Thunder Road Stakes (G3). The 4-year-old More Than Ready colt’s record now stands at 9-6-0-0 with $494,751 earned for co-owners D K Racing, Radley Equine, Taste of Victory Stables, Rick Gold, Tony Maslowski, and Dave Odmark.
“I gave myself 10 years to win a Grade 1, and luckily, we got it done in year,” Blacker said “I don’t want to make this about me. It’s all about the horse, he’s such a professional animal, he is a true racehorse. He was born that way, he’s just a true athlete and so mentally focused on racing. I just feel so fortunate to have him and with him a great group of owners like Rick and Jim. Being with me for such a long time, they’ve been so patient, and I just really thrill for them all to get a win like this.”
Hit the Road returned $10.40 to win, $5.40 to place, and $4.20 to show. Smooth Like Strait brought back $4.40 to place and $3.40 to show. Count Again paid $6.60 to show.
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