UNBEATEN BENCH POINTS STICKS IT TO FRONT-RUNNERS IN ‘THE GUM PURSE’ WHILE GAINING FOURTH VICTORY

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2011) – A three-horse speed duel helped unbeaten Bench Points gain his fourth victory Friday when rallying to win Santa Anita’s $64,960 The Gum Purse by 1 ¼ lengths over 3-10 favorite Da Ruler in the six-furlong event for 3-year-olds which was run in 1:08.22.

Even though the late scratches of Rumor and Polished Nickel had reduced the starting field to four, Bench Points and jockey Alonso Quinonez found a beneficial scenario despite the field’s lack of depth.

“The race did unfold like I thought,” said winning trainer Tim Yakteen. “We got a strong pace and he (Bench Points) finished like I knew he could.”

Hollywood Heist, El Gaucho and heavily favored Da Ruler set out almost in tandem. They raced three across the track with Bench Points sitting comfortably some three lengths behind the trio.

After Da Ruler, who had won his only previous start for trainer Bob Baffert with Mike Smith in the saddle, took a short lead turning for home, Quinonez got the winner in gear.

A California-bred son of Benchmark, Bench Points, who had been idle since Sept. 6, paid $7.20 and $3.20 with no show betting. The place price on Da Ruler, who finished 3 ¾ lengths ahead of El Gaucho, was $2.10.

Bench Points had used his late-running to style to win each of his previous starts last year. Each was achieved against Cal-breds. They included the Graduation and I’m Smokin Stakes at Del Mar.

The chestnut gelding went to the sidelines in September for surgery to remove a bone chip from his left knee. His comeback was his first competition in open company.

“Everything has come along great,” Yakteen said before the race. “I like the maturity I’ve seen. We’re looking at this race as an opportunity to try two turns.”

For his fourth straight victory, Bench Points earned $43,680 for the partnership of Donnic Crevier, Linda Mariani, Charles Martin and Mary Jo Zuraitis to boost his lifetime total to $188,280.

Leading West Coast 3-year-old Tapizar is the 4-5 morning line favorite among eight sophomores entered in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. The winner becomes eligible for the Preakness 5.5 Bonus which would require additional victories in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby and Preakness Stakes on May 21 for a $5 million award going to the winning owner and $500,000 to the victorious trainer.

Saturday’s co-feature is the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Maria Stakes with defending champion St Trinians listed as the 8-5 morning line choice among seven fillies and mares who will be going 1 1/16 miles. First post for the 10-race program is at 12:30 p.m.

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