With jockey Omar Berrio guiding the 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux through an opening along the rail, Great Warrior rallied to defeat a well-fancied pair of Bob Baffert-trained runners, Saddleranch by one-half length with stablemate and 8-5 favorite Hoorayforhollywood another length back in third.
Trained by A. C. Avila for Jessica Coudelaria, Great Warrior had sprinted once previously, and that was in his maiden debut in Brazil at 6 ½ furlongs. At odds of 3-10 on Oct. 9, 2010, he lost by a head. After breaking his maiden going 7 ½ furlongs in Brazil, the bay colt came to the United States where he sustained eight straight setbacks before winning the Pomona Derby on Sept. 24 of last year by four lengths.
He had been working well for his return to the races in the Lost Hills Purse, but the race had all the earmarks of a needed prep for longer distances following the layoff.
The winning mutuels were $53.60, $18.20 and $5.80. Saddleranch, ridden by Martin Garcia, paid $5.40 and $3.80. The show price on Hoorayforhollywood, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, was $2.80.
Saddleranch held on gamely for the place after dueling with early leader Courtside, the 2-1 second choice, who led the field through early fractions of 21.16 and 44.27. Berrio, meanwhile, kept the winner comfortably racing in fifth or sixth through the early stages.
The 43-year-old journeyman jockey, who rides almost exclusively for trainer Avila, angled his mount inside rounding the far turn while providing a polished ground-saving ride that resulted in a trip to the winner’s circle. The winning purse of $36,000 increased the career earnings of Great Warrior to $136,706 from a 3-5-2 record in 13 lifetime starts.
Jerry and Ann Moss’s Blingo is the 4-5 morning line favorite in Friday’s $75,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf as Santa Anita offers its final “Free Fridays” program of the season. General Admission is free while hot dogs, sodas and beers may be purchased for $2 each. First post for the program of eight races is at 1 p.m.