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United Makes the Grade in San Marcos
Ernie Belmonte

United Makes the Grade in San Marcos

ARCADIA, CA – After coming up just short in four prior attempts, LNJ Foxwoods’ United finally broke through to make the grade with a strong effort in Saturday’s $200,000 San Marcos Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Breaking from post 4 under Flavien Prat as the 4/5 favorite, United settled into a comfortable stalking position in mid-pack while Brown Storm shot to the early lead. Under invading rider Hector Berrios, Brown Storm posted opening fractions of :23.31, :46.92, 1:10.09, and 1:35.06 for the opening mile while Chosen Vessel chased closest of all.

Tipped out to run three-wide in the far turn, United was shuffled out toward the middle of the track after Brown Storm blew the turn’s exit and forced the trio out. This created an opening for Multiplier to try to sneak through on the rail, while Cleopatra’s Strike – who had already committed to trying to circle around United – was momentarily sent toward the grandstand.

Cut loose once he straightened out, United put his nose in front near the 1/16 pole and continued battling gamely through to the wire against the tightly-knit field. The Richard Mandella trainee crossed a 1/2-length clear in a final time of 1:59.04 for the 1 1/4-mile event over the firm turf course.

Credit: Ernie Belmonte

“You could see there wasn’t a lot of pace in the race,” Mandella said. “He’s got a big, lumbering stride and you don’t want to get in the way of it. We just let him cruise along and that worked out well.”

Despite the wide trip in the stretch, Cleopatra’s Strike got up for second by a neck over Oscar Dominguez, who closed from last to take third by a 1/2-length. Brown Storm necked out Multiplier for fifth, while Chosen Vessel weakened to finish a head back in sixth.

Campaign was scratched.

United’s win was his first since an allowance event at Del Mar last July and improved his overall record to 12-4-3-1 with $1,013,549 earned. The 5-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway followed that victory with three straight on-the-board finishes, including narrow defeats in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2).

“I think I made a mistake last time (in the Hollywood Turf Cup),” Prat said. “I was trying to keep him covered up and it didn’t end up the way I wanted and I found myself too far back. Today, we broke off and we were in the race (early). He just (kept running) to the wire.”

United returned $3.60 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Cleopatra’s Strike brought back $3.20 to place and $2.20 to show, while Oscar Dominguez paid $2.20 to show.

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