ARCADIA, CA – Liam the Charmer made a big late run to win Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes at Santa Anita Park. This was the first career stakes victory for the five-year-old gelding and his second consecutive win.
It was Ashleyluvssugar that took up the early lead as they came off of the downhill turf course and over the dirt crossing. Secretary At War and Ann Arbor Eddie were close behind while Liam the Charmer took up the rear. Ashleyluvssugar maintained his lead, setting fractions of :23.42, :47.61, and 1:11.42. As they entered the second turn, Ritzy A.P. made a move at the leader but quickly faded before he had a chance to be much of a threat. Ashleyluvssugar maintained a solid lead as they hit the top of the stretch but challengers were close behind. Liam the Charmer made a big wide move around the turn and took off down the stretch guided by jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Liam the Charmer finished 1/2 length ahead of Ashleyluvssugar. Ya Gotta Wanna finished third and Ann Arbor Eddie was fourth.
“Going into the far turn, I let him go in between horses and then kicked him out coming into the stretch and he really finished up nicely,” said jockey Tyler Gaffalione who was aboard Liam the Charmer for the first time today.
“He’s a pretty easy horse to fall in love with,” said trainer Michael McCarthy. “He’s always been a nice horse. This graded stake is probably a year and a half overdo. He’s just hitting his best stride now that he’s five. He’s like molasses. He just goes through the motions every day.
Liam the Charmer returned $7.80 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.60 to show. Ashleyluvssugar brought back $4.20 to place and $2.80 to show, while Ya Gotta Wanna paid $2.80 to show.
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