ARCADIA, CA – Shaman Ghost beat Midnight Storm by 3/4 length to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.
Ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by James Jerkens, Shaman Ghost ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.57 as the 6-5 favorite.
Owner-breeder Frank Stronach was on hand to see his 5-year-old horse win a big race at Santa Anita, a track which Stronach also owns. Last November, Shaman Ghost was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic on race day at the track after falling ill.
With this victory, Stronach won his third Big ‘Cap; Milwaukee Brew won it back-to-back in 2002 and 2003.
“I was kind of sitting there quiet (watching the race),” he said. “He’s had a lot of bad racing luck and he’s better than what he has shown. Today, it all worked out.”
In January, Shaman Ghost finished second to Eclipse Award winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, another Stronach-owned track.
After shipping in from Florida, Shaman Ghost stalked the pace in third, then drifted out to the middle of the track in the stretch run, before gaining the lead under Castellano’s urging in front of 29,412 on an unusually hot day. Castellano moved Shaman Ghost to the outside, away from dirt flying in his face, as they turned for home.
“I knew I had it won at the eighth pole,” Castellano said. “I asked him for full speed at the eighth pole, and he gave it to me right away. I said, ‘Yes!'”
Like Stronach, winning trainer Jerkens also found some luck at Santa Anita. A year ago, he brought Effinex to the track for the Big ‘Cap, only to have the horse finish third as the favorite after coming down with hives.
“He’s been showing up in all of his races,” Jerkens said of Shaman Ghost, “so I think he should get some respect now.”
The victory, worth $450,000, increased Shaman Ghost’s career earnings to $3,539,311, with seven wins in 15 starts.
“With not a lot of speed in the race, I had to ask him a little, put him really close to the pace, and he responded,” Castellano said. “Very classy horse.”
The race was missing two big names among older horses: Arrogate and Hoppertunity. Both are set to run in Dubai later this month.
Follow Me Crev came in third to earn his first career graded stakes placement. Argentina-bred Hi Happy was fourth, followed by Isotherm, Hard Aces, Twentytwentyvision, Gangster, and Imperative.
Shaman Ghost returned $4.60, $2.60, and $2.40. After winning six of his previous seven starts, Midnight Storm brought back $3 and $2.80, after winning six of his previous seven starts, while Follow Me Crev paid $5 to show.
G1 Big ‘Cap Quotes
Jockey Javier Castellano, Shaman Ghost: “I knew there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race, so I just wanted to focus on the horse on the lead, Midnight Storm, and keep track of him. (Shaman Ghost) was comfortable the whole way.
“I tried to get away from Midnight Storm in the stretch. I could tell that my horse was a little sensitive to going by the other horse. I switched my stick to my left hand, tried to make him switch leads to go by, and that’s what he did.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano, Midnight Storm: “I didn’t try to send him right away, I just left him alone. At the first jump, he was stepping slow, but I didn’t rush him. I let him go, and when I got him to the lead, I tried to hold the pace, letting everybody follow me. It was good.
“I stayed on the rail and the horse relaxed. He was really, really relaxed the whole race. I tried to get the jump at the start and tried to steal the race, but the winner was much the best today.
“With my horse, it was the first time running the mile and a quarter on the dirt. I think he did a really good job.”
Owner/Breeder Frank Stronach, Shaman Ghost: “This is my third win in the Big ’Cap. Of course, any time you win a Grade 1, it is a thrill, especially this race.
Trainer James Jerkens, Shaman Ghost: “He was in a nice spot the whole way, and then, when the leader kicked away a little on the turn, for a second, it looked like he was getting a little discouraged.
“Javier was able to head him to the outside, out of the dirt, and I felt good right before they turned for home. I felt like, ‘May the best horse win.’
Santa Anita Park