Irish-bred Century City, the longest shot on the board after a dismal performance at Fair Grounds two weeks ago, tallied a neck victory in a frantic finish to Sunday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf.
The 1 1/8-mile test for older horses was the 4-year-old son of Danzig's second win in seven U.S. tries for owners Kitchwa Stables and Thomas Nichols. The final time after a dawdling early pace was 1:47 4/5.
Ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., Century City was fitted with blinkers again by trainer Beau Greely after a ninth-place finish in the Explosive Bid (gr. IIT) in New Orleans on March 23. The big bay was able to get a rail-saving trip while racing fourth into the stretch, switched to the outside in the early stretch run and won driving over pace-setting Gondolieri and Sunday Break, who were separated by a head for the place. Passinetti was a half-length farther back in fourth.
Ballingarry, the 8-5 favorite making his first start since a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), was off slowly and failed to fire in the stretch after moving up on the outside. He was seventh in the nine-horse field.
"We needed to get a race into him (Ballingarry) and he's going to be better going longer, so I think this race will accomplish what I want for the next one (the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on May 10 at Hollywood Park)," said trainer Laura de Seroux.
Greely admitted that the $2.2 million Century City hadn't lived up to his potential since coming to the United States and he was searching for an answer.
"He got pretty far (at Fair Grounds) and we went back to the chalkboard," he said. "He didn't care for the turf there. We were looking for another excuse.Today, he gave me a lot of confidence. We're hoping for big things to come.
"The Fair Grounds turf course wasn't dangerous, but he didn't like it," Greely explained. "It's a long course (tall grass) and they roll it and it's really sandy. You could see watching the replay there he just kind of bobbled the entire way, and Jose said when he got back to the main track, going home, he was galloping. We cooled him out and he maybe drank two sips of water. His blood was phenomenal, we shipped him back, he looked great, we gave him a few gallops, a little breeze and he looked like he'd never run. I generally don't wheel him back like this, but it was more of a workout and he hated the surface, I think."
The trainer said he would look at either the $400,000 Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs or the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park, both on June 14, as possible next starts.
With Alex Solis in the irons, Gondolieri, a group I winner in Chile at a mile making his second U.S. start, slipped away to an easy lead while setting fractions of :24 4/5, :49 3/5 and 1:13 1/5 for six furlongs before Sunday Break and Corey Nakatani came to put on the pressure on the turn for home. Sunday Break edged to the front on the outside in midstretch and the two battled to the wire while joined three wide by Century City.
Bred by Kilcarn Stud and trained by Aidan O'Brien for Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, Century City was second to Rock of Gibraltar in the Group I Irish 1000 Guineas, beaten by 1 1/2 length, and won the Group II Goffs International in his final start overseas. By earning $90,000 on Sunday, he has now won six of 14 tries in his career with a bankroll of $477,940.
Sent off at 19-1, Century City paid $41.80, $15.80 and $8.80. Gondolieri, the 7-2 second choice, returned $5.80 and $4.60. Sunday Break, making his career debut on the grass, paid $8.80 to show. The $2 exacta was worth $235.60.