Left all by himself on the front end, there was no catching the ultra-game Star Over the Bay Sunday in the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) on the Santa Anita grass.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, the flashy 6-year-old gray/roan gelding Star Over the Bay held off the slowly closing Sarafan by three-quarters of a length in an excellent time of 1:58 3/5 for the 1 1/4-mile Oak Tree Racing Association event. Vangelis was another three-quarters of length behind in third.
"He's a push-button horse," Baze said. "Every time I hit him left-handed he just put his head down and dropped into another gear. I can hardly wait to ride him again. If he goes to the Breeders' Cup (Turf), I know I'll ride him because I don't have any other mile-and-a-half horse. He's definitely a horse that can run that far."
He won his third consecutive graded stakes turf race and his first grade I.
The Irish-bred Bayamo, the 7-5 choice in the seven-horse field, pulled out of the race entering the far turn. According to Dr. B. William Bell, D.V.M., representing the California Horse Racing Board, the injury to the 5-year-old gelding was a ruptured suspensory of the left front leg.
"It was his left ankle," jockey David Flores said. "I don't know what happened. I had him in a good spot. I didn't even push him. He's a good horse. I hope they can save him."
Star Over the Bay went quickly after assuming the lead. He led The Tin Man through fractions of :24 1/5, :47 and 1:11, opening up by eight lengths on the backstretch. Sarafan, running fifth early with Corey Nakatani aboard, began to cut into the lead on the turn and continued to make progress through the lane.
However, Star Over the Bay was in full control. Baze gave the gray a couple of cracks with the whip right handed near the eighth pole and brought him home under a vigorous hand ride while Sarafan edged closer. Vangelis closed well to be third.
"I got to (Star Over the Bay) and he's just a tough horse," Nakatani said. "As soon as I got to him I thought he was going to go right on by, but he found another gear. He's a very good horse (Star Over the Bay). He gets out there and dictates what's going on and keeps trying. My horse is as tough as they come, tough as nails. But that other one was a little better today."
Trainer Mike Mitchell, who claimed Star Over the Bay for $80,000 May 16, said before the race that if the son of Cozzene
won the Hirsch, his owners Carl VanBurger and Landon Vaughn, would consider the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) next. Star Over the Bay is eligible, Mitchell said.
"We're going to the Breeders' Cup," Mitchell said afterward. "It all came down to how he performed today. He had to win for me to go. I told that to all my owners. If we won we were going and if he was second by a nose we weren't going."
In the first four years of his racing career, Star Over the Bay won four of 31 races. This year he has won five of eight with earnings of nearly $500,000. Overall, he's 9-4-3 in 39 tries with earnings of $738,353.
He has not been headed in victories in the Sunset (gr. IIT), the Del Mar (gr. IIT) and the Hirsch.
Sent off at a generous 9-2, he paid $11.80, $5.80 and $4.40. Sarafan returned $7.40 and $4.60, completing a $63.20 exacta. Vangelis, who was ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., showed for $3.80.
The Tin Man was fourth, followed by Balingarry and Puerto Banus.