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Santa Anita Handicap Day Results

The highlight of the Santa Anita winter meeting is the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (G1). A decent crowd of 43,024 was on hand for the three graded stakes on the afternoon contested under ideal racing conditions: sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's. The team of trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Corey Nakatani took 2 of the 3 graded events.

In the main event, a field of eight older handicap horses went to the gate facing 1 1/4 miles of the Santa Anita main track. 3-5 favorite and defending champion Lava Man stalked the pace away from trouble to the outside, as 13-1 shot Ball Four set a slow pace of 24.06, 48.27, and 1:12.65. Turning for home, jockey Corey Nakatani turned Lava Man loose, as the heavy favorite took the lead at the quarter pole and easily held off the late-charging 8-1 Molengao to win by 3/4 length in a time of 2:02.11. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 9-1 Boboman in third. Lava Man is only the third 2-time Big Cap winner, after John Henry and Milwaukee Brew.

Winning jockey Corey Nakatani said, "He is just a tremendous animal. I think he will move forward off of this race because he did get a little tired at the end and the weight (124 pound highweight) didn't do him any good. Today I waited and didn't make that standard run of his because the track has been so heavy all day. I felt the other horse (Molengao) coming, but Lava Man turned in a gutsy effort. This horse will just do whatever you need him to do." Trainer Doug O'Neill added, "They were crawling early, but Corey knows this horse so well, he was so confident in him, and the big guy fired. He's run his last 9 or 10 races the same way: he makes his move and kicks clear. I didn't expect those slow fractions and him being where he was, I can tell you that much."

The $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) for three-year-olds is a local prep for the Santa Anita Derby and ultimately the Triple Crown, and was renamed this year in honor of the famous owner and breeder. The race had originally been run as the Santa Catalina. A field of nine went to the gate in this 1 1/16 mile main track event. 9-10 favorite Great Hunter did not disappoint, racing wide near the back of the field in the early stages, then finding his best stride at the top of the stretch to cruise to the lead. He easily drew away to a 1 1/4 length victory over 6-1 Sam P. in 1:42.89. It was a long 2 1/4 lengths back to 5-1 Saint Paul in third.

Winning jockey Corey Nakatani said, "He came back full of run. Doug thought he would run to about 80 percent of his capacity today, so he should move forward off of this race. He just ran a tremendous race. The plan today was to kick clear and gallop out strong. He did just that. Stormello, who we've beaten twice, ran a huge one in the East today, so we're looking forward to a good first Saturday in May." Trainer Doug O'Neill added, "Corey rode him beautifully. We just wanted a good performance and something to build on, and he ran better than we expected. Paul (owner Reddam) is a huge advocate of synthetic tracks, so we might take him to Keeneland for the Blue Grass. I'm very happy with where he is at this time. He lost ground most of the way, which is good and bad. He didn't have any traffic troubles, but he went farther than he had to. I'm just so excited, not having been in this position ever."

The $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (G1) featured older horses travel 1 mile over the Santa Anita turf course. 9-1 Kip Deville was bumped at the start but got into stride quickly and stalked the pace in third behind 6-1 Fast Parade and 9-2 Silent Name through a quarter in 23.98 and a half in 48.04. Turning for home, jockey Richard Migliore took Kip Deville out wide for running room, and through the stretch was all out to prevail by just a neck over late-running 7-1 Bayeux in 1:33.88 over the firm course. It was just a nose back to pacesetting Silent Name in third, while 3-1 favorite Charmo failed to fire and was seventh.

Winning jockey Richard Migliore said, "They went a little slower than I thought they would early, but my horse relaxed well and I was happy with my position. I thought Corey (Nakatani, aboard Silent Name) did a great job getting his horse to settle as well as he did, but I still thought I was going to be able to get by him fairly easily. As you saw though, his horse really fought back and when we got by him, I knew there was somebody else coming on the outside. My horse was really game to hold the lead like he did." Michelle Nevin, assistant to winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said, "The horse trained beautifully up to the race and Richard gave him a great ride. It looks like his favorite trip is a mile. I was very happy with him."

PHOTO: Lava Man

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