Piers Pottinger's Irish bred Wixoe Express looked beaten in upper stretch by pacesetter Expresso Bay in Saturday's $84,900 Tanforan Handicap, but responded under jockey Matt Garcia to pull away in the final furlong for a two-length victory on a yielding Golden Gate Fields' turf course.
Trained by Neil Drysdale, the 5-year-old bay gelding by Anabaa won his first stakes race in the United States since transferring to Southern California from Great Britain in April. He was making his first appearance in Northern California.
Aly Bubba rallied for second, two lengths in front of 2-1 favorite Gold Ruckus, who also closed strongly to reach contention but failed to sustain his bid along the inside. Expresso Bay faded to fourth. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile event was 1:45 1/5.
Wixoe Express, carrying 114 pounds pressed Expresso Bay, co-high weight at 117, on the outside from the beginning, but began to fall back in upper stretch as Expresso Bay, ridden by Eric Saint-Martin, took control. However, Wixoe Express came back under urging from Garcia to take the lead inside the eighth pole. He drew away from there under steady handling.
It was the second win in the last three tries for Wixoe Express, who won a $50,000 claiming event on the Hollywood Park sod Nov. 22. In his subsequent effort, he lost to Expresso Bay by three-quarters of a length in an $80,000 claimer on the same course Dec. 14.
He earned $51,150 for the victory, his fifth in 15 lifetime starts.
The sixth choice in the field of 10, Wixoe Express paid $21.40, $11.80 and $6.60. Aly Bubba, ridden by Joey Castro, returned $22.20 and $8.60. Gold Ruckus, Kevin Radke aboard, showed for $3.20. The $2 exacta was worth $374.60.