NEKO BAY TURNS TABLES ON WELL-BEATEN BREEDERS' CUP CHAMPION FURTHEST LAND IN SAN PASQUAL

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 9, 2010) – Seven-year-old Neko Bay, unable to keep up with 21-1 upsetter Furthest Land in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile two months ago, dramatically turned the tables on Saturday when gaining his first stakes victory in Santa Anita’s 73rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap.

Neko Bay, better fancied than Furthest Land in the Breeders’ Cup event when 13-1, made short work of the champion at 3-5 odds on Saturday when finishing strongly under Mike Smith to defeat Spurrier by 1 ¼ lengths. He traversed the 1 1/16 miles over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in 1:42.95.

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 9, 2010) – Seven-year-old Neko Bay, unable to keep up with 21-1 upsetter Furthest Land in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile two months ago, dramatically turned the tables on Saturday when gaining his first stakes victory in Santa Anita’s 73rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap.

Neko Bay, better fancied than Furthest Land in the Breeders’ Cup event when 13-1, made short work of the champion at 3-5 odds on Saturday when finishing strongly under Mike Smith to defeat Spurrier by 1 ¼ lengths. He traversed the 1 1/16 miles over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in 1:42.95.

Furthest Land, unbeaten in three previous races over synthetics, raced into second turning into the stretch, but could make no further impact while fading to last with Garrett Gomez aboard in the field of seven. Nownownow, ridden by Joe Talamo, closed resolutely from last to take third, a nose behind the runner-up.

Neko Bay is a product of Team Zenyatta, the unbeaten Horse of the Year candidate. The son of Giant’s Causeway is trained by John Shirreffs for owners and breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, and Smith is the regular rider of Zenyatta.

The Breeders’ Cup setback did not badly soil the reputation of Neko Bay, a lightly-raced, hard-trying sort who always seems to be competitive. He was the 2-1 favorite last month in Hollywood Park’s Grade II, Native Diver Handicap, but wound up a close third behind victorious Mast Track.

“His last race was better than it seems,” said Smith. “We were in behind a slow, slow pace, and today John (Shirreffs) wanted me to get him back and make one run. That’s what he did. The way it turned out, I think his last race set him up perfect for today.”

“He ran just the way we hoped he would run,” Shirreffs said in the winner’s circle. “We like to have him come off the pace a little bit, and he seems to run a little better if he has something left in the tank. As you can see, he’s not a big, strong horse.”

At odds of 5-1, Neko Bay was the second choice in the San Pasqual. He paid $12.40, $6.20 and $4. Spurrier, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $14 and $6.80. Nownownow paid $4.80 to show.

The victory was worth $90,000 to the Mosses while bringing Neko Bay’s earnings to $323,020 from a 5-5-1 career showing in 13 races.

After two scintillating victories in this country against allowance opposition, British-import St Trinians stepped into stakes company earlier on the program and ran off with the 7th running of the $72,290 Paseana Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

With Rosario gaining his third win of the afternoon, the 5-year-old bay mare gained command on the extreme outside turning for home and spurted to a long lead in midstretch before being geared down. She finished 3 ¾ lengths ahead of My Baby Baby.

St Trinians crossed the wire in 1:42.02. She powered home after the field of eight had dawdled through the first six furlongs in 1:12.27. My Baby Baby, ridden by Gomez, edged Floating Heart and Talamo by 1 ¼ lengths for the place.

“I wasn’t surprised at how she drew off,” said Mike Mitchell, who trains the streaking mare for Dan Capen and Laura Chavers. “She’s just been training so good.” Said Rosario, “I don’t know how good she is.”

As the 9-5 favorite, St Trinians paid $5.60, $3.60 and $2.80. My Baby Baby returned $6.60 and $4.40. The show price on Floating Heart was $3.80. Silver Swallow, the 2-1 second choice, ended up seventh while never threatening.

After winning three races on Polytrack among seven starts in England, St Trinians won her United States debut by four lengths at Santa Anita last March before ankle concerns forced her to the sidelines. She returned on Dec. 3 at Hollywood Park to demolish an allowance field by seven lengths.

The Paseana’s winning purse of $42,420 elevated St Trinians’ career earnings to $118,587 from an overall record of 6-0-3 in 10 starts.

Zilva, beaten by 2 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6, returns to action as the 2-1 morning line favorite in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The 43rd running of the Santa Ysabel heads a nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.

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