TALAMO CUTS CORNER IN GUIDING SURREY STAR TO LA PUENTE STAKES VICTORY, BOLSTERS STANDING AS MEET’S TOP TURF RIDER

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 10, 2011) – Jockey Joe Talamo cut the corner turning for home with 5-2 third choice Surrey Star Sunday to propel the Irish-bred bay colt to victory in Santa Anita’s 31st running of the $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, the track’s grass counterpart to the previous day’s Santa Anita Derby.

When the field floated out rounding the far turn, Talamo slipped Surrey Star though along the rail to gain the advantage and he gamely withstood the closing surge of 9-5 choice Major Art to win by one-half length. The winning time was 1:48.70.

Major Art, ridden by Victor Espinoza, finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of Jakesam, the 2-1 second choice who had led into the far turn while handled by Rafael Bejarano. The field was reduced to six with the scratch of Quail Hill, who had run in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.

While ranking fourth in Santa Anita’s jockeys’ standings entering the meet’s final week, Talamo has been the season’s dominant rider on turf. His victory in the La Puente was his 25th from 121 mounts (a 21 percent winning average) on grass, nearly half his 51 total victories. Joel Rosario, the meet’s leading rider with 88 wins, ranks second in turf victories with 22 at 16 percent.

“It was a great ride, a very nice ride,” trainer James Cassidy said in the winner’s circle. “He had a lot of horse the whole trip. He settled nice. There was no problem. He got a nice trip through on the inside and he kept on going. This colt will run a mile-and-a-quarter.”

“The race set up perfectly for me,” Talamo said. “James (Cassidy) and I talked in the paddock, and he said that two speed horses would be out there, and that I should just try and lay third. It set up just how we thought it would. He relaxed good and handled the turf real well. When I called on him, he had an explosive turn of foot.

“He sure handles the turf real well. I think he is just starting to come into his own, too. It seems race-by-race he is getting better and better. He’s learning a lot. James Cassidy has done a great job with him coming from Europe.”

While racing eight times on turf as a 2-year-old in England, Surrey Star placed a solid third in the Group III Solario Stakes at Sandown Park and lost by a nose to Rerouted in the Group III Somerville Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket.

Sent to the United States in early November and turned over to Cassidy, the import was a fast-closing third behind eventual Santa Anita Derby runner-up Comma to the Top in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Generous Stakes at one mile on turf on Nov. 27.

After two fruitless tries on dirt at Santa Anita this year, the La Puente marked Surrey Star’s return to turf. “We’re not going back to the dirt,” Cassidy said afterward. “It’s not that he didn’t handle it. It’s just not his thing.”

The Irish-bred son of Dubawi rewarded his La Puente backers at $7.60, $3 and $2.40. Major Art paid $3 and $2.20. The show price on Jakesam was $2.40.

Owned by Joe Masino who races as Class Racing Stable, Surrey Star earned $60,000, which increased his career earnings to $137,196 from an overall record of 2-2-3 in 12 starts.

Santa Anita resumes racing on Thursday when beginning the final four days of its 2010-11 race meeting. An eight-race card on Thursday will get underway at 1 p.m. Sunday’s closing-day program is highlighted by the historic Grade II, $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles on turf.

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