Red Oak Stable's resilient Sweet Return once again found a way to get the job done, winning Saturday's $350,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita from the extreme outside 14 post position.
Ridden expertly by Gary Stevens, the 4-year-old colt by Elmaamul, carrying high weight of 119 pounds, seized the lead past mid-stretch after making a five-wide move into the lane and went on to a half-length triumph over hard-charging Singletary. It was the third straight graded stakes win for Sweet Return.
"I didn't know if it would be possible from the fourteen hole, but we got a nice spot going into the first turn and I was able to save some ground," Stevens said afterward. "He relaxed some for me and then came home like a powerhouse. It was unbelievable, just a great trip. "
Winning trainer Ron McAnally, who won his fist Kilroe since 1973 with Kobuk King, knew there was plenty to overcome.
"It was a concern but Gary's the greatest. We discussed strategy in the paddock and we were both on the same channel. He figured the race out the way I did, which was just the way it worked out."
Coming out of the gate, Stevens angled Sweet Return inward while racing in mid-pack into the first turn and continued off the rail while chasing into the far turn. Eventually, Stevens swung out for the stretch run and Sweet Return, whose earlier wins in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) and San Marcos (gr. IIT) were both at 1 1/4 miles, had plenty left for the drive. Sweet Return swept past brief leader Designed for Luck and several others in the stretch while holding off Singletary and Jose Valdivia Jr. close to home.
Inesperado and Sarafan each found their best strides late to be third and fourth respectively, followed by Designed for Luck, who was outfinished.
Buckland Manor, the 3-1 favorite in the evenly matched field, finished sixth with Corey Nakatani aboard. Buckland Manor rated in second off the early wicked pace of Rock N Rosh (:22 4/5, :45 2/5, 1:09 4/5), who led by five lengths on the backstretch, but failed to respond when called upon.
Apache Wings, Needwood Blade, Statement, Irish Warrior, Geronimo, Golden Dragon, Wixoe Express and Rock N Rosh followed.
Bred in Great Britain, Sweet Return won for the fourth time in 11 outings in the United States. His earlier wins in the current streak were both accomplished in front-running style, and like this one, at long odds. He went off as the seventh choice at nearly 10-1.
The victory was worth $210,000, upping his career bankroll to $823,031.
Sweet Return paid $21.60, $10 and $6.20. Singletary returned $9 and $5.80. Inesperado, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, showed for $5.20. The $2 exacta was worth $229.40.