ARCADIA, CA – Sierra Farm’s homebred Nessy used a ground-saving trip to store energy that he used to launch a deep-stretch bid and score his first stakes victory in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 San Juan Capistrano Stakes at Santa Anita.
Sent off from post 2 under Mike Smith as the 4-5 favorite, Nessy leisurely rated in mid-pack while A Red Tie Day led by a length over the field’s lone filly, Evo Campo, for much of the trip. Hitting the top of the stretch, A Red Tie Day began to kick away while Smith moved Nessy off the rail and into the clear, passing Evo Campo and setting his sights on the leader. Taking the lead in the final furlong, the Ian Wilkes trainee drew off to win by a length in a final time of 2:48.03 for the 1 3/4-mile turf marathon.
“I was so happy to be able to ride for Ian,” said Smith. “We go way back, to when he was working for Carl Nafzger in Chicago. As you know, these owners have always wanted to win this race, and they pointed for it with this horse. I did ride him with a lot of confidence. I was able to run him up into a couple spots and get him to turn on and turn off.”
A Red Tie Day had just enough left to hold off a late run from Rye along the rail, taking second by a head. Evo Campo faded to fourth, 2 1/4 lengths past Lazzam, with Principal Bob and Moonman completing the order of finish.
Nessy’s win was his first since an allowance score at over 1 1/2 miles on the Churchill Downs turf last June. The 5-year-old gelded son of Flower Alley now has a record of 21-3-6-6 with career earnings of $300,420 for owner/breeder Ed Hudon.
“This race is all for Ed,” Wilkes said. “The horses went slow enough where he had to beat them, but he’s a cool horse. He’s getting better, that’s the whole thing about it. He’s improving. He’s just 5. He’s still a young horse at this stage for this game, because if we stay in business (keep racing him), he’ll get better as we go on.”
Nessy returned $3.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. A Red Tie Day brought back $7.60 to place and $4.40 to show, while Rye paid $2.60 to show.