Western Pride, who had been out of action since May 11, held off Total Impact by a neck Saturday to win the $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap (gr. III) at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, the 5-year-old Florida-bred son of Way West covered the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48 2/5. Fleetstreet Dancer was third, a length behind.
Western Pride was the runner-up in last year's Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) for owners Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur and trainer James Chapman, but ran ninth in the Dubai World Cup and 11th in the Singapore Airlines International Cup at Krankji, Singapore. He's been inactive since, although he was twice scratched from races this winter.
Usually quickest into stride, Western Pride relaxed Saturday while tracking Lord Jim through splits of :22 4/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 2/5. He took the lead on the turn for home, inching away from Total Impact and held on gamely at the end.
"We scratched him that many times because we were trying to find the right spot for him and I think that worked out successfully," James Chapman said. "He ran great; I'm pleased."
Valenzuela said he expected more of a fight from his horse early on.
"He hadn't raced in such a long time, I thought he'd pull me to the lead, he was so fresh," he said. "But he relaxed great and when I asked him to go, he took off."
Wooden Phone, the 2-1 favorite for trainer Bob Baffert who was making his first start in more than 15 months, stalked the pace until the turn for home when he dropped out to finish last in the eight-horse field.
Western Pride's 10th career victory in 24 starts was worth $90,000, fattening his career bankroll to $1,163,819.
The 4-1 third choice, the winner paid $10, $5.60 and $5. Total Impact returned $9.20 and $8.40. Fleetstreet Dancer's show price was $6.60. the $2 exacta was worth $100.