The Irish-bred outsider Silver Cup overtook Ticker Tape in the final strides to win the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Santa Anita Park lawn Sunday.
The Italian One Thousand Guineas (Ity-II) winner had been blanked in four starts in the United States be,ginning with a seventh-place finish in the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park July 3. Coming off a troubled fourth-place finish in a one-mile classified allowance heat at Santa Anita Dec. 29, Silver Cup was sent off at odds of 16-1 with Victor Espinoza aboard for the first time.
Patrick Biancone trains the dark bay 4-year-old daughter of Almutawakel for owner Martin S. Schwartz.
"The other day she was a bit unlucky. It was like a public gallop last time," the trainer said of the decision to bring Silver Cup back on just 11 days rest. "But she ran very good today. I'm very happy. Victor rode her very well. He rode her perfect. He's a very good rider."
Ticker Tape finished second, a half-length behind Silver Cup, with Royal Copenhagen 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Movie Star was nipped by a head for the show spot. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event on firm going was 1:47 2/5.
The Gary Tanaka-owned entry of Star Parade, Flip Flop, and Barancella, sent off at odds of 4-5, was off the board.
Silver Cup carried 114 pounds to victory, three less than Ticker Tape.
Bond Deal led for the opening quarter mile in :23 before an impatient Star Parade pulled Martin Pedroza to the front to lead the pack through a half-mile in a quick :46 4/5 before Bond Deal regained the lead while clocking six furlongs in 1:10 3/5.
Movie Star, ridden by Garrett Gomez, angled outward coming off the turn and took the lead as Star Parade quickly faded. Ticker Tape, forwardly placed by Kent Desormeaux early, seized the advantage past the eighth pole as Royal Copenhagen, far back in the field of 11 early, challenged along the inside.
But on the outside, Silver Cup, under strong left-handed urging, surged for Espinoza late and was too much for Ticker Tape, who has lost her last nine starts since taking the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (gr. IT) in October 2004.
"For a minute, (Desormeaux) opened up and I thought I wouldn't catch (Ticker Tape)," Espinoza said. "But the last sixteenth, when I switched my whip to the left (hand), I just went by like nothing."
Silver Cup won four in a row in Italy prior to the American Oaks. She finished third in the Mrs. Revere (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs turf Nov. 12 in her best previous stakes showing stateside. She went to the sidelines for more than six weeks after that before her troubled return effort at Santa Anita, where she was blocked twice in the lane. Silver Cup's first U.S. win, her sixth overall in 11 starts, boosted her bankroll to $379,485.
She paid $35.40, $15.20, and $10.20. Ticker Tape, who has returned to form in her last two starts for trainer James Cassidy, paid $8.40 and $8.60, completing a $258.20 exacta.
"She ran her heart out," Cassidy said of Ticker Tape, who just missed in the My Charmer (gr. IIIT) at Calder in her previous try. "(Desormeaux) was in a little tight, and I was worried there when (Movie Star) came up on the outside of us and we couldn't get out as early as I would have liked. I'd rather have her make a move on the turn rather than down the lane, but he couldn't do anything about that. He saved ground. He knew what he was doing. He just got nailed, that's all."
Royal Copenhagen, facing older horses for the first time as a 4-year-old for Laura de Seroux, was $11.40 to show.
After Movie Star, the order of finish was: Barancella, Halo Ola, Flip Flop, Bond Deal, Stage Shy, Star Parade, and Dream's.San Miguel Stakes
The $81,200 San Miguel Stakes for 3-year-olds went to Too Much Bling, who burst away from his opposition in mid-stretch to take the six-furlong event in a swift 1:08.59 for trainer Bob Baffert. Only three San Miguel winners have run faster.
It was the first start in California for the roan, an Ohio-bred son of Rubiano, and he was bet down to 5-2 favoritism off a series of stellar works and a third-place finish in the Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga in August.
With Garrett Gomez aboard, Too Much Bling spurted to a four-length victory over Case to Believe, who closed for second under Corey Nakatani in the 11-horse field. Bound to Be M V P, an import from Canada, finished third.
The winner, making his fourth start for Baffert, paid $7.60, $4.80, and $3.60. The prices on Cause to Believe were $5 and $3.60, while Bound to Be M V P paid $10.20 to show.
Owned by Stonerside Stable and Blazing Meadows Farm, Too Much Bling made his first start since finishing sixth Oct. 28 when favored in Belmont Park's Nashua Stakes (gr. III). The payoff boosted his earnings to $102,674 from a record of 2-0-2 in six career starts.