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ARCADIA, CA – W. C. Racing homebred Wildman Jack nipped a game Sparky Ville by the narrowest of margins at the wire, coming out the better of a head-bobbing finish to win Saturday’s $100,000 Daytona Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 6 as the 2/1 favorite under Mike Smith, Wildman Jack sat just off of the early pace while racing inside of Texas Wedge. Ahead of them, Sparky Ville and Cistron battled noses apart through the far turn, posting quick fractions of :21.07 and :43.54.
Off the far turn, Sparky Ville battled back along the rail and emerged with a clean lead upon straightening for home as the rest of the field tried to rally. Wildman Jack went four-wide around Cistron, who bumped with Stubbins when he tried splitting Cistron and Sparky Ville, and Texas Wedge soon joined the fight from the middle of the track.
Kept mostly to a hand ride, Wildman Jack battled up alongside Sparky Ville in the shadow of the wire before the pair crossed whiskers apart. A closer study of the photo finish determined that Wildman Jack outbobbed Sparky Ville by the narrowest of noses.
The Doug O’Neill trainee completed the 5 1/2-furlong firm turf sprint in a final time of 1:01.01 – just missing the track record that Jolie Olimpica set in the Las Cienegas Stakes (G3) on January 11.
Stubbins was a troubled third after running out of racing room when between Sparky Ville and Cistron, who finished fifth, just behind Texas Wedge. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the stretch run action but voted unanimously to make no changes to the top five finishers.
“The inquiry was that (Stubbins) was trying to squeeze between (Sparky Ville) and myself and (Cistron) all at once,” said Smith, who was aboard Wildman Jack for the first time. “We were all pretty tight in there. I did a pretty conscious job of keeping him straight and then (Sparky Ville) started to drift out a little bit and made it worse. Fortunate for us, (Wildman Jack) was able to stay up and he ran extremely well.”
Blameitonthelaw and Murad Khan completed the order of finish.
Wildman Jack’s win was his second straight against group/graded company, having won the 6-furlong Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Stakes (G3) at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on March 7. The 4-year-old gelded son of Goldencents – himself campaigned by W. C. Racing and O’Neill – improved his record to 8-4-2-1 with $373,630 earned.
“He came back from Dubai in perfect shape and he continued to train well,” said O’Neill. “This race came up tough, like a Breeders’ Cup race. It’s nice to have ‘Big Money’ Mike, I can tell you that. Midway through the race, it looked like maybe we were dropping out of it, but he still had horse. I know this is a big win for Glen Sorgenstein (of W. C. Racing), he owns the horse and he bred him. This is huge.”
Wildman Jack returned $6.20 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.40 to show. Sparky Ville brought back $33.40 to place and $9.20 to show, while Stubbins paid $3 to show.
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