ARCADIA, CA – A photo finish was needed to determine the victory between Sharp Samurai and Fly to Mars on Saturday, but in the end, Sharp Samurai nipped his game foe by a nose in the Grade 2, $200,000 City of Hope Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking well from post 8 under Gary Stevens as the 6/5 favorite, Sharp Samurai settled into midpack while Psycho Sister posted opening fractions of :22.89 and :46.26. Making a three-wide bid in the far turn, Sharp Samurai emerged onto the front stretch running alongside Fly to Mars and jockey Flavien Prat. The two hooked up for a tough stretch battle, with Prat errantly knocking the whip out of Stevens’ hand inside the final 1/16. That wasn’t enough to deter Sharp Samurai, though, and the two continued to run on strongly through to the wire. The finish was close, but the judges ruled that Sharp Samurai just got his nose down first in a final time of 1:32.47 for the 8-furlong event over the fast turf course.
“I had a great trip,” Stevens said. “I was just following the leaders and he was going easy. It was close and the credit goes to the other horse. My horse was game, Flavien’s horse was game. At the wire, I knew I won and Flavien knew I won as well. He said some words I can’t repeat. I said, ‘You’re the one who knocked the whip out of my hand, I should be the one cussing.'”
The rest of the field wasn’t nearly as close as the top two. Ohio took third over Le Ken, while White Flag crossed in fifth ahead of Flamboyant. Psycho Sister weakened to seventh ahead of Double Touch, while Mithqaal completed the order of finish.
Sharp Samurai’s win improved his record to 14-8-2-0, including two wins and two seconds in four starts this year for trainer Mark Glatt. The 4-year-old gelded son of First Samurai has now earned $735,270.
“I didn’t think he won,” said Glatt, who also co-owns with Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal. “I honestly thought the other horse got the bob.”
The final time was 4.5 seconds faster than Next Shares’ score in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland earlier in the day, a race that served as a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In for the Mile. When asked if he would try his hand at the world championships, Glatt was optimistic.
“We certainly had to have a good run today and we did,” he said. “We’ll hope to be able to get it in, he deserves it.”
Sharp Samurai returned $4.40 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. Fly to Mars brought back $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show, while Ohio paid $3.60 to show.