Favored Master David won a game stretch battle in the $81,400 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita Sunday by a length as 2003 juvenile champion Action This Day ran a close fourth.
Ridden by Alex Solis for trainer Bobby Frankel, Master David sat off the early pace of Gethsemani, then hooked up with Borrego for a spirited stretch battle as Preachinatthebar and Action This Day closed from behind. The chestnut son of Grand Slam prevailed for the first time in a stakes race in a time of 1:49 1/5 for the 1 1/8-mile Sham.
Frankel said Master David would be pointed to the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles on March 13 at Gulfstream Park.
"Everything went well," said the trainer.
Borrego, with Tyler Baze aboard, held off the late charge of Preachinatthebar and Gary Stevens by a head, with Action This Day another head behind in fourth.
Action This Day, who had David Flores in the saddle, carried top weight of 123 pounds, spotting the winner seven pounds. Allowed to lag early while last of six who competed (53-1 True Contender refused to break), Action this Day gathered momentum on the home turn, came five wide into the stretch and finished gamely.
Flores said he wasn't discouraged at all.
"A mile and an eighth is a long way after the layoff," Flores said. "It's a good prep for him. We're just building a little confidence. I had to let him stay back there. But he made his run. For these kind of horses I was hoping they would go a little faster but it didn't go that way."
Trainer Richard Mandella agreed with his jockey about Action this Day, who was the 9-5 second choice.
"I'm happy with his start," he said. "I mean I'd have liked to won it but he finished strong and as long as he comes out in good shape that's the main thing. Most likely (his next race will be) the Santa Anita Derby (on April 3) but we'll look at everything."
Sent off at 11-10, Master David pressed the early pace while off the rail through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 and 1:11. The Frankel trainee stuck a head in front on the turn for home, but was collared coming into the stretch by Borrego, who battled outside the winner all the way down the stretch. Master David regained the lead in the late stages and edged away to a slight advantage, holding off the late comers as well.
"I couldn't ask for a better trip, just laying second the whole way," Solis said. "At the quarter pole (Borrego) came up outside of me and my horse kept trying. Down the stretch he found another gear and we got him. At that point you don't have time to worry, you've got to keep riding. I was hoping he would come back and he did. He ran a very game race. "
The victory was worth $48,840 to partners Peter Minikes' Georgica Stable, Stephen Mack and Andrew Rosen, all of New York City. Master David, who had a conditioning edge on both Borrego and Action This Day, won for the second time in six career starts. He also has three seconds and a third-place showing, which came in his last start, the Santa Catalina (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 17.
A $100,000 Fasig-Tipton February 2003 purchase, Master David now has earnings of $118,756. Produced from the Sadler's Wells mare Nadra, he was bred in Kentucky by Hopewell Investments LLC, et al.
Master David paid $4.20, $3.20 and $2.80. Borrego returned $5.20 and $4.20. Preachinathebar's show was $3.40.
In another race for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, Wimbledon, purchased for $425,000 by James McIngvale of Houston as a 2-year-old, broke his maiden in his fifth career start, running a mile in 1:36 3/5 to win by eight lengths.