Jeffrey Sengara's Bluesthestandard, claimed Dec. 31 at Santa Anita for $50,000, won for a meet-best fourth time Saturday, capturing the $200,000 Portrero Grande Handicap (gr. II).
The game 6-year-old Georgia bred, trained by Ted H. West, was supplemented to the 6 1/2-furlong race for $4,000. He won in an excellent time of 1:14 4/5 on a fast track. Longshot Joey Franco finished two lengths behind in second, holding off favorite Kona Gold by a half length. The 9-year-old Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 2000 lost for the fourth time in five starts. Deboniar Joe closed from last to finish fourth.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Bluesthestandard, a gelded son of American Standard, settled into a comfortable position on the outside of the seven-horse field on the backstretch as the rabbit Martel busted out of the gate to establish a firm early lead. Martel, who was entered by trainer Juan Pablo Silva to provide an honest pace for his stablemate Debonair Joe, did just that, going :21 2/5 for the opening quarter-mile and :44 for the half before tiring on the turn for home.
Bluesthestandard continued to make steady progress while racing outside, reaching the lead as Joey Franco and jockey Gary Stevens squeezed through on the rail into the stretch. The two vied for command down the stretch before Bluesthestandard wore down his rival and drew away.
Kona Gold, ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani subbing for Alex Solis (in Dubai), was unhurried into the stretch but lacked the kick he usually displays.
Smith, who rode Bluesthestandard to his 13th win in 20 career starts, said he was surprised at the ease with which they won.
"He really impressed me," Smith said, "especially the galloping out. Usually after going 1:14, most horses are ready to fall apart, but he wanted to go some more.
"I stayed a little busy on him down the lane because he was looking all around. I have so much respect for Kona Gold and I know he can come flying by at any time, so I didn't want him to catch me sleeping."
With Ted H. West in New Mexico where he saddled Himalayan to a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Park Oaks, saddling duties for the Potrero Grande went to Ted West, father of the trainer.
"He's just one of those rare horses that I've been lucky enough to have a handful of in my lifetime," he said. "They just don't take no for an answer."
Sengara, who has plucked graded stakes winners such as $2.8 million winner Budroyale out of the Southern California claiming box before, was thrilled.
"It's too much to even comprehend," he said. "It's the most fabled life."
He said West convinced him to supplement after his last race, a nose victory in a $100,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 mile on March 12. "He's been coming out of his skin." Asked about the lucky blue shirt he was wearing, he laughed.
"I won't ever take it off," he said.
Bluesthestand, who raced twice at the $10,000 claiming level in 2002 and has been claimed five times, now has career earnings of $320,410. The Potrero Grande triumph was worth $72,000.
Terry Brown bred him in Georgia.
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, the winner paid $6.40, $4 and $2.80. Joey Franco returned $15.60 and $4.80. Kona Gold's show price was $2.80. The $2 exacta was $89.20.