The 6-year-old Friendly Island, ridden by Garrett Gomez, ran close to the pacesetter Limited Creole throughout the six-furlong event, turning up the pressure leaving the quarter-pole and drawing even in upper stretch. He gradually pulled away to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:08 4/5.
“I know (Limited Creole) like the back of my hand," said Gomez, who won with each of his first five mounts at Santa Anita Saturday. "Believe it or not, I wanted him to make an easy lead and that my best option would be to sit second like I did. I thought the ideal situation would be to go after him at about the half or the three-eighths (pole) and that’s exactly what we did. He’s a very talented horse and he’s in very good hands.”
Michael McCarthy, substituting for the suspended Todd Pletcher, saddled the New York-bred son of Crafty Friend--Island Queen, by Ogygian. The 35-year-old McCarthy, who won his first stakes, said afterward that a trip to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) is likely in Friendly Island's future.
"I don’t know (what’s next) but I think Dubai is definitely in the cards," he said. "I do not believe he’ll start before then.”
The winning owners are Stuart and Anita Subotnick of New York, N.Y., who race as Anstu Stables Inc.
Harvard Avenue, with Victor Espinoza aboard, closed stoutly to nip Limited Creole and Michael Baze by a head for second, but was no threat to the winner. To Sender trailed.
Friendly Island and Harvard Avenue, coming off a win in the El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 1, each carried 118 pounds.
When Friendly Island finished second in the BC Sprint, four lengths behind Thor's Echo, he was sent off at odds of 58-1. Saturday, he was 1-2, paying $3 and $2.10 and combining with Harvard Avenue ($2.20) for a $4.80 exacta. There was no show wagering.
Limited Creole, in his stakes debut for trainer Peter Miller, set fractions of :22 2/5 and :45 1/5.
Friendly Island, who won the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico last May, improved his record to 8-2-2 in 18 starts while increasing his earnings to $969,714.
Kildare Stud and Adrian Regan bred the chestnut Friendly Island.