ARCADIA, CA – In a stretch battle for the ages, Next Shares squeaked by Cleopatra’s Strike by the tiniest of nose hairs on Saturday to win a thrilling rendition of the Grade 2, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita.
Breaking from post 7 as the 8/5 favorite under Geovanni Franco (subbing for original rider Joel Rosario, who was out with an illness), Next Shares took back and settled along the rail near the rear while Arms Runner posted opening fractions of :24.09, :48.36, and 1:12.46. As the field turned for home, Cleopatra’s Strike – who had been stalking closely from second throughout – ranged up and soon took command, but behind him, Next Shares was rallying furiously. Though Cleopatra’s Strike dug in gamely and fought as hard as he could to hold on, the wire came just one step too late. The Richard Baltas-trained Next Shares hit the wire by a photo-confirmed nose in a final time of 1:48.61 for the 9-furlong event over the firm turf course.
“My horse was so good today,” Franco said. “He broke out of there and we kind of got left a little bit, but Richard told me not to hurry, so I didn’t. He told me that if we had to go wide to go ahead and go wide, because it wouldn’t matter. He said the horse will run. Down the lane, the other horses were very game, but I think Next Shares heard everyone screaming and pulling for him, and he got it done.”
Lost in the shuffle of the photo finish was Liam the Charmer, who rallied along the inside of Next Shares and was the unfortunate middle of the three-horse sandwich at the line. Chicago Style‘s rally from the rear wasn’t nearly as effective as the winner’s, as he could only muster fourth. Platinum Warrior took fifth by a nose and a neck over Flamboyant and Arms Runner, respectively. Oscar Dominguez and Big Bend completed the order of finish. Big Score was the field’s lone scratch.
Next Shares’ win was the third in his last four starts, including the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes two races ago, and improved his overall record to 22-6-4-2. The 6-year-old gelded son of Archarcharch increased his career bankroll to $1,187,697, for owners Michael Iavarone, Jules Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Christopher Dunn, William Marasa, Ritchie Robershaw, and Mark Taylor.
“This is a very, very, very good horse,” Baltas said. “I said earlier that he likes a little more cut in the ground, but he obviously handled this well. Geo rode a great race. He was a little far back, but this guy doesn’t panic.”
Next Shares returned $5.20 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.80 to show. Cleopatra’s Strike brought back $5.80 to place and $4.20 to show, while Liam the Charmer paid $3.20 to show.