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STREAKING GOMEZ RIDES OUT OF BOUNDS TO UPSET WIN IN GRADE III SHAM AS BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE SPRINT CHAMP SECRET CIRCLE FAILS; UH OH BANGO SURPRISES IN GRADE II SAN PASQUAL
By BETH HARRIS AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Out of Bounds rallied in the stretch to beat 1-2 favorite Secret Circle by a half-length in the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes, the first Kentucky Derby prep of the season at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Secret Circle, who led briefly into the stretch, lost for the first time in four career starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, 10-1 shot Out of Bounds ran a mile in 1:34.56 and paid $22.60, $5.80 and $4.40. Gomez extended his streak of consecutive stakes victories at the track to four dating to New Year's Day when he turned 40.
Secret Circle, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner, returned $2.80 and $2.10, while Longview Drive was another half-length back in third and paid $4 to show. They were the only two stakes winners in the field of five 3-year-olds.
Trained by Eoin Harty, Out of Bounds is out of 2001 BC Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine and is by Discreet Cat, the 2006 UAE Derby winner who never raced in the Triple Crown series. The colt is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who races as Darley Stable.
Out of Bounds was fourth in his career debut at Santa Anita last fall and then won across town at Hollywood Park last month.
"He's a very big horse, but he's a gentle giant," Harty said. "He's come around mentally as well as physically, and sometimes it takes a while for both to catch up."
Harty has been on the Triple Crown trail before with Colonel John, who won the 2008 Sham Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. He went on to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
"He's the closest thing to Colonel John I've had in a long time," the trainer said about Out of Bounds, whose next start is undecided but will be another of the upcoming Kentucky Derby preps at Santa Anita.
Secret Circle was stretching out to a mile for the first time after proving himself to be a good sprinter.
"He just got beat. He didn't shut it down," Baffert said. "He wasn't exhausted when he came back, so it was a good experience for him. It was the first time he was able to rate off of horses. I think he got a lot out of it."
Rafael Bejarano said Secret Circle showed a big kick at the top of the stretch, when he was battling Longview Drive for the lead.
"At the same time, he started looking at the horse on the rail," Bejarano said. "My horse tried to stay close to him and that's why he lugged in. That's when I started hitting him. He passed the inside horse, but wasn't paying attention to the outside horse (Out of Bounds)."
Coming off the stretch turn, Gomez thought he was going to run right by Secret Circle.
"But this horse is just young enough to where he doesn't quite understand everything about the game yet," he said. "I had to spank him a couple times to let him understand what I was wanting from him, and when I got into him a little bit he progressed and went forward."
Baffert was noncommittal on his future plans for Secret Circle, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the trio who owned 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky.
Handsome Mike was fourth and Hierro fifth.
* * *
Another upset transpired in the first major prep for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 3 when 7-1 shot Uh Oh Bango defeated favored Tres Borrachos by 1 ¾ lengths in the 75th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
With Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard the 5-year-old Arizona-bred for the first time, Uh Oh Bango passed Tres Borrachos to gain second down the backstretch, disposed of pacesetter Skipshot entering the stretch, and had plenty in reserve to withstand the favorite’s attempt to re-rally.
The final time was 1:41.44. Skipshot held on for third in the field of seven, 2 ¼ lengths behind Tres Borrachos.
The victory by the dark bay trained by Arizona-based Kory Owens for owner-breeder Triple AAA Ranch reversed a 22-length loss to Tres Borrachos in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap last summer.
It required some homework by Smith. He said he telephoned Aaron Gryder, who had ridden Uh Oh Bango in his two previous starts in Northern California, for some guidance.
“Aaron said he was unlucky last time (fourth in the Nov. 25 All American Stakes at Golden Gate Fields), and that he should run good today,” Smith said. “He told me that he was even-paced and not to expect a quick turn of foot.
“I shared that with Kory (Owens) in the paddock, and he agreed. So I decided to lay close with him, and he got brave early. I moved early with him and it worked out. I’ll tell you, he galloped out strong to about the half-mile pole, so there’s more left.”
“I finally got that Grade II,” said Owens. “He’s been having races go hit-and-miss for him lately. He finally put it all together today, and that was a good thing to see. This is a horse that just keeps on going.”
Uh Oh Bango paid $16, $6.60 and $4.80. Tres Borrachos, ridden by Joel Rosario, returned $3.80 and $3. The show price on Skipshot, with Joe Talamo aboard, was $7.20.
For the victorious son of Top Hit, it was his fifth win in 17 career starts. The winning purse of $90,000 raised his lifetime earnings to $532,712.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion Regally Ready is the 8-5 morning line favorite for his return to action Sunday in the contentious Grade III, $100,000 Daytona Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. First post for the nine-race card is at 12:30 p.m.