Fourty Niners Son, one of the nation’s leading turf horses two years ago, registered his first win in nearly 18 months Saturday when he held off Notable Guest and Prospect Park by one length in the $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita.
Under a clever ride in the 1 1/2-mile turf test from Garrett Gomez, Santa Anita’s leading jockey, Fourty Niners Son closely tracked a crawling pace established by leader A.P. Xcellent. They dispatched the pacesetter mid-stretch and had enough in reserve to resist the slowly progressing closers.
The final time was 2:27.50 following splits of 25.78, 49.31, 1:15.13, 1:39.95 and 2:03.74 over the marathon distance.
Notable Guest, who rallied from sixth in the field of seven with David Flores aboard, nosed out Prospect Park and jockey Corey Nakatani for the place. A.P. Xcellent, ridden by Victor Espinoza, faded to sixth. One Off, the 5-2 favorite, wound up last without mounting any threat.
At odds of 7-2, Fourty Niners Son was the second choice after prepping for the San Luis Rey with a fourth in an allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on March 3 following some eight months on the sidelines. His back class drew support despite being winless in five starts since taking Oak Tree’s Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) on Oct. 2, 2005.
The 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor , by Forty Niner, paid $8.80, $4.80 and $3.80. Notable Guest returned $5.80 and $4.60 while the show mutuel on Prospect Park was $5.
“The horse did everything I expected him to do,” Gomez said afterward. “I wanted to get him into the race sooner, so I kind of shoved on him a little bit early. I didn’t want to be head and head for the lead, but when Victor (Espinoza on A.P. Xcellent) slowed it down like he did, I had no options. He was comfortable where we were. Turning for home, he laid his body down and he really went to running.”
Fourty Niners Son provided trainer Neil Drysdale, who also saddled One Off, with his fourth victory in the San Luis Rey. The winning purse of $120,000 increased the career earnings of owner Tom Baxter’s Kentucky homebred to $673,825 from a record of 6-3-4 in 19 starts.
“He benefited a lot from his last race,” said John O’Donoghue, assistant to Drysdale. “He got bumped pretty hard the other day.” O’Donoghue said that the connections have no firm plans for Fourty Niners Son’s next start, but are considering the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles on the meet’s closing day, April 22.
Fitz Flag finished fourth with Runaway Dancer fifth.