ARCADIA, CA — Under confident handling, the heavily-favored Stormy Liberal took Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Daytona Stakes by a neck under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., his fourth consecutive stakes win over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Trained by Peter Miller and owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, he negotiated 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.43.
Claimed by Miller out of a hillside turf win for $40,000 six starts back on October 16, Stormy Liberal was unhurried early from his outside post position in a field of four but passed Ambitious Brew leaving the 1/4 pole and ran the length of the stretch while well in-hand under Arroyo.
“We had a great start, and I was only concerned about Mike Smith on Ambitious Brew,” said Arroyo, who’s been aboard the 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding in his last five starts. “It worked out well, and my horse put himself right into the race. I had them from the get-go, and I knew I had more horse than (Smith) the whole time.”
With all seven of his career wins (from 20 starts) coming over the hillside course, Stormy Liberal picked up $90,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $432,070.
“David Lanzman suggested we claim this horse, and we’ve just been rolling on the good times ever since,” said Hartunian. “He’s found his niche coming down the hill, that’s for sure. Norberto had a good hold of him. He’s gonna give me a heart attack making it that close! It’s a great day, and Santa Anita is the greatest place in the world.”
Trained by Marty Jones, the California-bred Ambitious Brew inherited the lead at the rail when early leader Blackjackcat opted to ease back a bit leaving the 1/2-mile pole.
“I didn’t want to be (on the lead), but I absolutely expected to be,” said Smith. “I tried to let the other horse take the lead, but going :23 down the hill, that ain’t going to happen. If you do that, I have to go to the lead. It is what it is. He ran great. He really ran a great race, and that’s a good horse that beat us.”
Fractions on the race were 22.40, 44.15, and 1:06.25.
Stormy Liberal returned $3.00 and $2.10, while Ambitious Brew brought back $2.20. There was no show wagering.
Jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr., Stormy Liberal: “They might have given me more trouble if we were running another 1/16 of a mile. I felt him (Ambitious Brew) coming back a little, but I realized it was my horse slowing down, waiting. I could feel it. I saw the wire and knew he wouldn’t have enough time to get to us.
“I’m just happy to be here with my family. My kids are here, and I’m just ecstatic.”
Santa Anita Park