ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL – Crystal Racing Enterprises and Contreras Stable’s Matrooh motored home in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Hanshin Cup, to give trainer Cipriano Contreras and jockey Santo Sanjur the first graded stakes wins of their careers.
Goneghost lugged in at the start but recovered and raced out for the lead with an opening quarter of :23.95, then continued to run strong through fractions of :46.54, 1:10.96, and 1:23.58 while putting distance between himself and the rest of the field. Sanjur sat patiently on the eventual winner, opting out of the running early before making up ground on the final turn. Coming into the stretch, Matrooh was angled to a clear path and closed quickly in the final stages to secure the win by 2 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:36.43 for the mile-long event over the synthetic racing surface.
“I’m so happy to come back to Arlington,” Sanjur said in the winner’s circle after the race. “I just let him break, and he broke really well. It was easy after that. I knew that I had a lot of horse at the finish.”
Goneghost settled for second, 5 lengths better than Western Elegance.
Master Merion was bet down to the post-time favorite, but the turf stakes winner had an awkward start under Corey Nakatani, who had flown in from California to ride. After recovering from the break, the duo tried to match stride with the pacesetters but had to settle for fourth.
“I let him try to be comfortable where he was at, but he seemed a little bit dull,” Nakatani said. “He wasn’t a disgrace; he ran pretty good.”
Great Wide Open, Ghost Hunter, Christian C, Harmac, and Crewman completed the order of finish. Wellabled was scratched.
Matrooh’s win improved his career record to 22-7-1-3 with career earnings of $419,429. The 8-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor had one prior stakes score on his resume, having won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park on Halloween in 2015.
Matrooh returned $19.60 to win, $9.20 to place, and $6.20 to show. Goneghost brought back $4.80 to place and $3.60 to show, while Western Elegance paid $7.80 to show.