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ARCADIA, CA – By hook or by crook, LNJ Foxwoods’ United somehow found a way to get up in time and nose out both runaway pacesetter Acclimate and late-running Friar’s Road in Saturday’s $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
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Defending champion United broke from post 4 under Flavien Prat as the 7/5 favorite in the field of a dozen males and was soon jostled back by rivals as the field raced by the dirt crossover and onto the main oval.
Acclimate, the 2019 edition‘s runner-up, shot to the lead under Ricky Gonzalez and posted fractions of :22.70, :46.32, 1:11.42, and 1:35.01 for the opening mile while Neptune’s Storm and Camino Del Paraiso gave closest watch.
Acclimate exited the far turn still in command and looked momentarily like a gate-to-wire winner, but United – tipped out four-wide at the top of the stretch – was let loose and began charging his way to the front.
Sliding past Friar’s Road in the middle and Acclimate inside, the Richard Mandella-trained United nailed Acclimate on the wire to win the 1 1/4-mile firm turf route by a nose in 1:58.41.
“I thought I got it, but I heard there was a picture, so I guess it was pretty close, closer than I thought,” Prat said. “It took me forever to get him up, so I didn’t see there was a picture actually. It’s always great to win a race prior to the Breeders’ Cup and it seems like he’s doing great. He always does great, actually, and it is really fun to be around him.”
Acclimate held second by another nose over Friar’s Road, who rallied from last with an impressive foe-splitting trip in the stretch but just couldn’t get there in time.
A close length behind them, Award Winner necked out Master Piece for fourth, with Cupid’s Claws another 1/2-length further back in sixth.
Red King, Ready Soul, Neptune’s Storm, Count of Amazonia, Camino Del Paraiso, and Media Blitz completed the order of finish.
K P All Systems Go scratched.
United’s win was his third of the year, along with the San Luis Rey Stakes (G3) over this course and distance in March and the 1 1/8-mile Eddie Read Stakes (G2) at Del Mar 2 starts back. The 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding, who suffered a poor trip to finish fourth in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) last time out, improved his record to 22-10-4-1 with $1,813,549 earned.
“I didn’t think he quite got there,” Mandella said. “I was accepting second, third, and another good race, but what a great feeling when they said I won. I always expect it, but it doesn’t always happen. He couldn’t look better, train better, so we expected him to run like he did. We’ll aim for the Breeders’ Cup. He’s like part of the family. He’s an old gelding, been around a long time. You tend to get to know him as well as you know people. He likes seeing us and we like seeing him.”
United returned $4.80 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.40 to show. Acclimate brought back $6.80 to place and $4 to show. Friar’s Road paid $3.60 to show.
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