Morton Fink's Guided Tour, shipped into Southern California from Louisiana by trainer Niall O'Callaghan, posted a mild upset in the $300,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park on Sunday, defeating Lethal Instrument by a length and a half under jockey Larry Melancon. Moonlight Charger finished third, with ex-claimer Freedom Crest, the odds-on favorite, bringing up the rear in the eight-horse field.
Guided Tour was forwardly placed throughout, tracking Deputy Flag through early fractions of :23.40 and :46.91. Approaching the far turn, Melancon sent Guided Tour along the inside to take the lead, clicking off six furlongs in 1:10.80. As Guided Tour came off the rail into the stretch, Lethal Instrument came through along the inside, headed Guided Tour, but was outfinished in the final furlong. Guided Tour completed the nine furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.26, after a mile split of 1:35.63. He paid $8.80 to win as the second choice in the wagering.
Freedom Crest, who came into the San Antonio off a strong victory in the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) for trainer Richard Baltas, flashed early speed from an outside post position, but was not a factor in the final half mile.
Guided Tour was winning for the ninth time in 23 lifetime starts, and the San Antonio was his fourth stakes victory, the previous triumphs all coming in 2000. He is a 5-year-old by Hansel out of Dancing Mahmoud, by Topsider. Guided Tour was bred in Kentucky by Walter Hillenmeyer III and Richard Hoeweler's Woodlyn Farm. He was a $102,000 Keeneland September yearling who raced for William Teinowitz until March of 2000, when Fink bought the gelding from his fellow Chicagoan.
Following Guided Tour's win in the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds in late December, owner Fink said he is the first horse "that doesn't want to work in the mornings, and only wants to work in the afternoons. After a very slow start in his career, he's become the most consistent horse I've been involved with in 30 years."
"He's been getting better," Melancon said after the San Antonio. "I felt confident turning for home. I knew I had some horse." O'Callaghan joked that Guided Tour has dramatically improved "ever since Larry (Melancon) started training him. He doesn't listen to any of my instructions, either," O'Callaghan said of his rider. "That's why he wins."
O'Callaghan had considered sending Guided Tour to Gulfstream Park for Saturday's Donn Handicap (gr. I) but opted instead to go west. He said the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds would be Guided Tour's next start.