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ARCADIA, CA – Calvin Nguyen’s Idol put forth a strong late rally past Express Train to capture Saturday’s $400,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Idol broke from post 6 under new rider Joel Rosario at 5/1 odds and settled well off the early pace. King Guillermo outkicked Tizamagician for command and posted opening fractions of :22.82, :47.12, and 1:12.26.
Tizamagician ranged up in the far turn and challenged for the lead, bringing Express Train along his outside, just as Rosario gave Idol the green light and began sweeping past rivals as he straightened for home.
Flying late in the stretch, the Richard Baltas trainee collared Express Train in the shadow of the wire before crossing a 1/2-length clear, completing the 1 1/14-mile fast dirt route in 2:02.46.
“My horse loves this distance,” Rosario said. “I just wanted to keep him away from the rail and he handled it easily. He responded when it came time to run and he had some kick. I appreciate the opportunity Richard Baltas gave me for this ride. I had never been on him. I watched all his races and I could see he tries hard every time. What a strong finish today! He ran really big.”
Express Train was 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Maxfield, the even-money favorite who was undefeated in 5 starts entering the Big Cap.
Independence Hall, Tizamagician, Kiss Today Goodbye, Coastal Defense, and King Guillermo completed the order of finish.
Idol’s win was his first at the stakes level and represented a sharp return to form after failing to win the San Antonio Stakes (G2) and the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) earlier this meet. The 4-year-old Curlin colt, purchased for $375,000 as a yearling, upped his lifetime bankroll to $416,464.
“He was wide, he was far back, but Joel said he didn’t want any of the kick back in his face, so we took the wide route,” Baltas said. “He’s got a big, lovely long stride, so that’s why we were thinking a mile and 1/4 for sure. We needed all of Joel Rosario’s power in the stretch to get him home. It was a great win. It’s a race you dream about winning.”
Idol returned $12.80 to win, $6.40 to place, and $3.40 to show. Express Train brought back $5.40 to place and $2.80 to show. Maxfield paid $2.40 to show.
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