Ral Ayers, substituting for the suspended Jeff Mullins, saddled the 12-1 hope Ten Meropa, a recent $130,000 purchase in Europe on behalf of A & R and Class Racing stables. The Kentucky-bred son of Johannesburg had a maiden win on a synthetic track from five starts and earnings of $11,190 in Great Britain prior to the Baldwin. He had not been to the post since last September.
Jockey Tyler Baze enjoyed his second graded win of the weekend on the Santa Anita turf. He guided Ever a Friend to victory in the March 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT).
Leaving from the inside gate in a field of eight, Ten Meropa missed the break and languished at the back of the field as Doc On the Rock (:21.70) and Sea of Pleasure (:43.70) led them along at a fast clip. Sea of Pleasure continued to lead to the furlong marker. But Ten Meropa, after angling six paths wide to the far outside for the home stretch and, despite racing somewhat greenly, outfought Sea of Pleasure and the rallying Sky Cape for the advantage. He edged away in the final stages under encouragement to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
The final time was 1:13.09 on a firm course.
“He’s been working unbelievable since he got to this country," Baze said. "He broke slow and I actually expected that because a lot of times that’s what they do first time out here. He’s got an awesome kick and the fast pace helped us.”
Trained in Britain by Jamie Osborne, Ten Meropa ran sixth in his last start, a group III test at six furlongs on the synthetic track at Kempton. The colt broke his maiden at Wolverhampton over the same distance in June. Bred by Desperado Stables, he earned $66,030 for his new owners, Tom Arndt of A & R Stables and Joe Masino of Class Racing Stable.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s a great surprise," said the 29-year-old Ayers, who earned his first stakes win as a trainer. He has worked for Mullins for five years.
Favored Sky Cape (2-1), ridden by Corey Nakatani on his first day back after a six-week layoff due to a broken collarbone, had to settle for second after leading briefly past the eighth pole. He was 2 3/4 lengths clear of D. Double You and Rafael Bejarano in third.
Racing with Lasix for the first time, the dark bay Ten Meropa carried 115 pounds to victory and paid $27, $10.40 and $5 as the third-longest shot in the field . Sky Cape ($3.80 $2.60), a 2 1/4-length winner over allowance foes down the hill in his last start for Kristin Mulhall, capped a $2 exacta of $87.60. D. Double You, winner of back-to-back starts for Peter Miller prior to the Baldwin, was $2.80 to show.
Nevada Worrier, Returning, Doc On the Rock and Sea of Pleasure completed the order of finish. Italian Rules was pulled up at the bottom of the hill but walked off afterward. Standing High scratched.