Jockey Gary Stevens earned his first stakes victory since November of 1999, riding War Chant to a 1 1/4-length victory over Road to Slew in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) Saturday at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
The Oak Tree Mile was War Chant's first start since finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). In the Oak Tree Mile, War Chant -- racing on turf for the first time and without the blinkers he wore in the Derby -- kept well back from the early pace, moved up while four wide on the turn, and pulled clear to the victory, completing the mile in 1:33.75 on firm turf.
"I gave him a little nudge on the shoulder midway around the far turn, and he jumped underneath me, and I was up head-and-head for the lead about five strides later," said Stevens. "So it was a good lesson for me, and a good lesson for him."
Road to Slew finished second, two lengths clear of Sharan. Irish Prize, Edneator, Purely Cozzene, Auction House, and Iridanos completed the order of finish.
War Chant (Danzig--Hollywood Wildcat, by Kris S.) earned $172,050 for the win, his fourth in six career starts. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, he finished second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) after winning the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II). War Chant is owned by Irving and Marjorie Cowan, who also raced his dam.
"He was in perfect position (on the backstretch) and like Gary (Stevens) said, maybe he should have waited a little longer," said trainer Neil Drysdale. "This horse, provided he comes out of this race well, will go for the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). I think (War Chant) will make a lovely 4-year-old. I think he's equally good on both surfaces."
War Chant returned $8, $6.20 and $4.40 and led a $1 exacta worth $59.60. (Chart, Equibase