Golden Balls, an Irish-bred import whose name celebrates the soccer accomplishments of British superstar David Beckham, rallied furiously Saturday to nail odds-on favorite Desert Code in the final strides of Santa Anita’s $108,300 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf.
Following two decisive sprint victories over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, Desert Code appeared safely en route to his first route victory when 7-1 fourth choice Golden Balls came storming home under Brice Blanc to win by a nose. The final time was 1:34.61.
Ridden by Richard Migliore, 9-10 choice Desert Code led from the start before yielding at the wire. He finished three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place Vauquelin, with Aaron Gryder aboard, in the field of seven.
Golden Balls’ victory in his U.S. debut was worth $16.40, $4.80 and $3.20. Favored Desert Code paid $2.60 and $2.40. Vauquelin returned $3.40 to show.
The winner caught the eye of trainer Jim Cassidy at a sale in England last fall. He purchased the son of Danehill Dancer for a partnership. “I hope he’s even better than the other horses I have brought in from Europe and had success with,” Cassidy said before the La Puente. “I paid a good bit of money for him, so I hope he’s a nice horse.”
Fontana Racing, the Gould Family Trust and Deron Pearson now own Golden Balls.
“I was pretty confident he’d run well,” Blanc said afterward. “I got outside and clear at the five-sixteenths, and he just took off. This is going to be a really nice horse.”
David Hofmans, who trains favored Desert Code, found no excuse for his colt. “The horse ran as hard as he could,” Hofmans said. “He had the race all his own way. There were no excuses. He just got outrun the last jump.”
The $64,980 Golden Balls earned for his victory more than doubled the $24,872 he had banked from seven races in England. As his career earnings rose to $89,852, the chestnut colt’s record became 3-0-2 overall.