March 11’s race card at Santa Anita was heavy with stakes races. For the Grade 1 Triple Bend, trainer Peter Eurton had East Coast jockey Javier Castellano come out to California. Castellano, the Eclipse Award’s Outstanding Jockey for the last four years, also attained mounts for six other races. While his ride for Eurton, Kobe’s Back, came in fifth in the Triple Bend, Castellano did win back to back stakes in the Kilroe Mile and the Big ‘Cap (Santa Anita Handicap).
For the $400,000 Kilroe, Castellano kept longshot Bal a Bali in the middle of the field right up to the end, passing What a View in the last strides to win by a head. And, for the Big ‘Cap, the feature race of the day, Castellano again won near the end, taking Shaman Ghost past Midnight Storm to win by ¾ of a length for trainer Jim Jerkens and Santa Anita’s owner and chairman, Frank Stronach.
Eurton had requested Castellano come West ride Kobe’s Back because of concerns that Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens might not be ready for a stakes race after having had hip replacement surgery on December 21. However, Stevens looked to be in excellent condition on Saturday, winning the day’s sixth race aboard Shehastheritestuff.
Jockey Mike Smith guided two undefeated three year-olds as they continued their winning streaks in Saturday’s stakes. Sircat Sally, victorious in starts on both the dirt and the turf, won the China Doll Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths. In the San Felipe, a race featuring Kentucky Derby hopefuls, undefeated Mastery claimed his fourth straight victory.
With that win, it looked like Mastery was going to continue leading the Kentucky Derby list. But, only a few strides after the finish line, Smith sensed something wasn’t right in Mastery’s gait and pulled the champion up. Unfortunately, medical exams showed the three year-old needs surgery on his front left leg. The timing definitely takes Mastery out of Kentucky Derby contention. His main betting rival in the San Felipe, Gormley, took fourth in the race for trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss, the team that gave the racing world the fantastic Zenyatta.
Two other stakes favorites did not perform as expected. Dortmund, last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner, debuted on the turf for his new trainer, Art Sherman, in the Kilroe Mile. Despite leaving the gate as one of the top betting favorites, Dortmund didn’t take to the turf as well as his sire Big Brown had, and came in a disappointing last.
In the Triple Bend Stakes, Masochistic and jockey Mike Smith looked like they had the $400,000 race all tied up. That was until they hit the final turn for home. At that point, Masochistic swung wide enough for fast approaching Denman’s Call, guided by Tyler Baze, to take the opening. Victorious by a length, Denman’s Call paid a handsome $35.40 to win. His victory was also a nice tribute to his namesake, Santa Anita’s former track announcer, Trevor Denman.