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Rust-Free Gift Box Easily Defends San Antonio Title
Benoit Photo

Rust-Free Gift Box Easily Defends San Antonio Title

ARCADIA, CA – Hronis Racing’s Gift Box showed no signs of rust from the six-month layoff, returning impressively to easily defend his title in Saturday’s $200,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Breaking well from post 2 under Joel Rosario as the 6/5 favorite, Gift Box refused to yield the inside advantage to King Abner, who tried and failed to secure command. Heading into the clubhouse turn, Gift Box pushed himself ahead before posting the opening 1/4-mile in :23.95.

Allowed to settle on the backstretch, Rosario kept the pace honest, posting 1/2-mile and 3/4-mile times of :47.33 and 1:10.99, respectively. Heading into the far turn, King Abner attempted to reengage and seemed to pose a threat to upset the bettors’ choice at 24/1.

Any chance of Gift Box losing his return vanished shortly after he straightened for home, however. Rosario allowed his gray steed to turn on the jets, and it was all over from there.

Despite shying from the whip in mid-stretch, Gift Box proved too tough in the end. The John Sadler trainee crossed 3 3/4 lengths clear in a final time of 1:42.73 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“He ran really well,” Rosario said. “He kind of broke a little slow, but then got it going a little bit. I got to the first turn and he was in front, and he was able to keep on going from that position and take it all the way.”

King Abner ran well to stay on for second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Midcourt, the 2/1 second choice who saw his four-race win streak snapped after breaking poorly and never fully recovering. It was 4 1/2 lengths back to Fight On, who necked out Gray Magician for fourth.

Draft Pick and Mugaritz completed the order of finish.

Gift Box’s win was his third in five races since joining Sadler’s barn out west, having made his first 13 starts in New York for trainer Chad Brown and owner W. S. Farish. The 6-year-old intact son of Twirling Candy now carries a record of 18-6-6-2 with $1,127,060 earned.

“He trained with a lot of enthusiasm for this race,” Sadler said. “He has run against quality horses where he has run, so today, we said let him run a little more free, and we had a good result.”

Gift Box returned $4.40 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.20 to show. King Abner brought back $13.60 to place and $5.60 to show, while Midcourt paid $2.60 to show.

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