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BATTLE OF HASTINGS SETS BALDWIN STAKES MARK BEFORE 17,972
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 1, 2009) – British-bred 3-year-old Battle of Hastings, who won his last two starts in England prior to a lackluster United States debut, redeemed himself in Santa Anita’s Grade III, $100,000 Baldwin Stakes on Sunday when closing strongly to capture the 6 1/2-furlong grass sprint by 1 ¼ lengths over favored Flashmans Papers.
On a warm, sunshiny day when Santa Anita offered a Snow Day promotion while importing 200 tons of snow for its infield, a crowd of 17,972 turned out. The figure did not include an estimated 10,000 children, aged 17 and under, who were admitted free.
Sent off at odds of 7-1 following his dull effort in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Generous Stakes last November, Battle of Hastings was a convincing winner while covering the distance in the Baldwin Stakes record time 1:11.86 under jockey Tyler Baze.
Flashmans Papers, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, seized the lead in midstretch after finding an opening along the rail, but the 3-2 favored British-bred could not match strides with the winner in the closing yards.
It was two-lengths further back to Luckiest Man and jockey Victor Espinoza in the field reduced to seven 3-year-olds following the late scratch of Dream of Kaylee.
Trained by Jeff Mullins for Michael House, Battle of Hastings paid $17.60, $6.80 and $5.60. Flashmans Papers returned $3 and $2.60. The show price on Luckiest Man was $4.80.
“Last time out it was his first race in this country, and he was just lost,” Baze said after alighting from Battle of Hastings in the winner’s circle. “He didn’t know what he was doing at all.
“He’s been a handful for Jeff, but I thought he’d run good today because in his last two works, it’s like the light bulb when on. He showed some heart today, splitting horses like he did. I think he’s going to be a really nice horse.”
The bay gelding’s final time in the 42nd running of the Baldwin bettered the previous stakes record of 1:11.96 set by Desert Code two years ago.
“He ran better than I thought he would,” said Mullins, who had won the Baldwin in 2003 with Buddy Gil and who had been on suspension last year when his assistant, Ral Ayers, saddled victorious Ten Meropa with Tyler Baze aboard.
“Last time (the Generous Stakes) it was hard because they flew him in right off the plane,” Mullins added, “and you’ve obviously got high hopes for him, but you don’t know what they’ve done before you’ve got him.” Mullins was educated on Sunday. “And he’s done it all off of training,” he noted.
The winning purse of $60,000 elevated Battle of Hastings’ career earnings to $93,875 from three victories in seven starts.
Santa Anita will be dark on Monday and Tuesday before racing resumes on Wednesday with an eight-race program beginning at 1 p.m.