Muny, a 10-1 shot who had been freshened since winning an optional claimer at Del Mar two months ago, took the Grade II, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf with a front-running victory under jockey David Flores in 1:47.69.
Into Mischief, off since February while recovering from a foot ailment, ran away with the first running of the $113,000 Damascus Stakes while covering seven furlongs in 1:20.38 over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface.
Georgie Boy, considered a leading Triple Crown contender when going to the sidelines with a back injury prior to the Santa Anita Derby in April after winning three graded stakes, was never a factor while finishing fourth.
After running second to Georgie Boy in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10 following a 13-1 upset victory in Hollywood Park’s Grade I CashCall Futurity, Into Mischief had gone onto the shelf.
Into Mischief tracked the front-runners in his return before Victor Espinoza set him loose on the turn, and the bay son of Harlan’s Holiday won in hand. He paid 8.80, $4.40 and $3.20. Dancing in Silks, ridden by Joel Rosario, returned $10.60 and $6. Hatta Fort, with Julien Leparoux aboard, paid $4.80 to show.
The victory by Into Mischief was the third in five starts to go with a pair of seconds for the consistent colt trained by Richard Mandella for B. Wayne Hughes. The winning purse of $68,280 increased his career earnings to $547,080.
“He looked pretty ready,” Mandella said. “You couldn’t ask any more other than a bigger purse.” The Hall of Fame trainer indicated that Into Mischief would be pointed to the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
“This colt has always been good,” Espinoza said, “but I think the time off helped him a lot. He’s more relaxed, more mature, and he knows what’s going on. Before, he used to break out of the gate and go. Today, when I asked him to go, I almost went on top of the hill, he went so fast.”
The lightly-raced Muny gained command soon after the start of the Oak Tree Derby, but the son of Najran was fully extended to resist the closing rally of 2-1 favorite Madeo with Mike Smith aboard. The winning margin was a neck. Dixie Chatter, ridden by Richard Migliore, wound up third, one-half length behind Madeo.
The mutuels on Muny were $22.80, $9.40 and $6.60. The prices on Madeo were $4.40 and $3.40 while Dixie Chatter’s show payoff was $7.
Muny’s win was the third in succession for the 3-year-old gelding following a fourth-place finish is his maiden debut. His first stakes victory netted $90,000 for a partnership headed by Bob Bone and boosted his total to $161,160.
“David slowed the pace down, and the horse couldn’t have run any better,” remarked winning trainer Mike Puype. “Mike’s been very high on him,” said Flores, “and this was a great effort going a mile-and-an-eighth. He’s improving, and he’s going to get better.”
The Oak Tree season winds up on Sunday with a nine-race program highlighted by the $100,000 Cascapedia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. It will be Fan Appreciation Day at Santa Anita with first post at 12:30 p.m.