Under a heady ride by David Flores, Bob Black Jack led from start to finish in the 57th running of the prestigious seven-furlong event. His winning time of 1:20.20 was just one-fifth of a second off the stakes record set by racing superstar Spectacular Bid 28 years before.
Colonel John, who defeated Bob Black Jack by one-half length in last April’s Santa Anita Derby, checked in fourth as the 2-1 second choice, a nose in back of Georgie Boy.
The kickoff to Santa Anita’s 84-day season attracted an on-track crowd of 33,112, which topped last year’s opening day attendance of 30,156 and pleased track officials in these challenging economic times. Bob Black Jack’s upset helped generate a Pick Six carryover of $171,220 into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. program.
A California-bred son of Stormy Jack, Bob Black Jack had been on the sidelines for nearly six months following his Kentucky Derby fade to 16th before making his return with a fifth-place showing in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Vernon O. Underwood Stakes last month.
“He needed his last race, no doubt about it,” said Flores. “I knew nobody else had the speed this horse does,” he continued while recounting the Malibu experience. “I was hoping we could control the race, and we did.
“He cleared right away and threw his ears up. Nobody else seemed like they were in a hurry, and he was doing it so easily. He finished up really strong, and I just hope he stays good and sound and that we have another big year with him.”
James Kasparoff, who trains Bob Black Jack for his brother Tim and Jeff Harmon, was elated. “This is the biggest win of my life, the biggest win of the horse’s life,” he exclaimed. “This is a much deserved win for him.”
Bob Black Jack banked $150,000 for his owners to bring his career earnings to $594,925 from an overall record of 4-2-1 in 10 starts. He returned $12, $5.20 and $3.60 to his wagering faithful.
Into Mischief, who was due to be retired after the Malibu, paid $3.40 and $2.80 for his second-place finish with Victor Espinoza aboard. Trainer Richard Mandella said the plan is to retire Into Mischief to owner B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky. Georgie Boy, with Edgar Prado up, paid $3.40 to show.
Trainer Kasparoff was pleased that his colt had drawn outside of Into Mischief. “Being able to get outside of that horse helped,” he said. “Let’s face it, there wasn’t a lot of speed in there, and that helped us out even more.
“Today, it seemed like he really had it all his own way the whole way. When challenged, it was nice to see him respond. It looked like Into Mischief was going to get him, but Bob Black Jack was pretty full of run late in the race.
“They didn’t put up fractions until after the race, but :22 2/5, :45 flat. . .he’s probably going to be fairly hard to beat with those fractions.”
Garrett Gomez rallied 6-5 favorite Gio Ponti from last in a field of nine 3-year-olds to run off with the $100,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes while negotiating one mile in 1:34.92 after recent rains moved the event’s ninth running from the turf and prompted four late scratches.
Even though the Pro-Ride track experience was Gio Ponti’s first on a surface other than grass, the talented son of Tale of the Cat dominated his rivals to win by 1½ lengths after Gomez angled him through an opening in the stretch.
“He ran a really good race,” said Gomez, closing in on his third straight national riding title. “The synthetic today was a question, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to see how he’d over it. We know he can run over grass.
“When we turned for home, I was trying to maneuver him around and he had other ideas about where he wanted to go, but we got it done. He’s a very talented horse, and sometimes talented horses can run on anything.”
The Sir Beaufort was listed as a Grade III stakes race, but with the change of surface, it temporarily at least lost that designation until further review.
Medjool, with Martin Garcia aboard, finished second, a head in front of El Gato Malo and jockey Rafael Bejarano. Gio Ponti paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.80. Medjool, $11.20 and $6.20. El Gato Malo, $3.20.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Castleton Lyons, the bay colt registered his fifth victory in nine starts. Gio Ponti earned $60,000, which brought his career figure to $820,800.
The 69th running of the $125,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 2-year-olds went to 7-1 shot All Saint, who rallied between horses in the stretch to prevail by one length over 3-1 favorite Feisty Suances with Atticus Jack another neck back in third.
The winner, being ridden for the first time by Bejarano who is in search of his sixth straight Southern California riding title following a 2008 sweep, covered the seven-furlong distance in 1:22.07.
The victory provided trainer Triphon B. Dahl, a native of Jamaica, with his first stakes triumph. The 44-year-old conditioner has a stable of seven horses based at Fairplex Park in Pomona.
A gelded gray son of Skimming bred by Mr. and Mrs. John Toffan, All Saint gained his second win in seven starts for owner Eduardo Gamez. The winning purse of $75,000 elevated his earnings to $122,400.
The mutuels on the winner of $17.20, $7.60 and $5.60. Feisty Suances, ridden by David Flores, paid $5.20 and $4.40. The show price on Atticus Jack, handled by Aaron Gryder, was $5.40,
Indian Blessing, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, is the 8-5 morning line favorite among ten 3-year-old fillies set to contest Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 La Brea Stakes.