Bonfante Wins San Simeon Stretch Duel

Saturday's $103,488 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita, pared to four starters from an original field of nine when switched from the hillside turf course to the main track at 6 1/2 furlongs, went to Bonfante, the longest shot in the field who won a stirring stretch battle with Battle Won.

The San Simeon, a grade III event on grass, would lose its graded status pending a final determination by the American Graded Stakes Committee. It was switched after heavy rain Friday created dangerous conditions on the unique downhill layout.

Jockey Aaron Gryder got Bonfante home by a nose after Battle Won, who had set the pace under Martin Garcia, was headed on the inside mid-stretch but battled back determinedly to just miss in the final lunge at the wire. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to 8-5 favorite Siren Lure, with Richard Migliore aboard, in third. Turnbolt trailed.

The time for the 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt was 1:14.59 on a track rated fast. With no show wagering, Bonfante paid $14.20 and $4.60. The place payoff on Battle Won was $4.

“This horse really earned this win,” Gryder said following the San Simeon. “He was able to handle everything they threw at him and just take it in stride. I thought my best chance was to catch Battle Won by surprise and get the jump on him at the quarter pole. We had all the momentum at that point and he was really game all the way to the wire.”

It marked the first graded stakes victory for Bonfante, a 6-year-old bay gelding trained by Ron McAnally for Frankfurt Stables and Eugene Tenbrink. The California-bred son of Fruition increased his earnings to $473,817 with the top prize of $63,360 while boosting his record to 10-2-3 in 23 races.      

Scratches were Billy Allen, Soul City Slew, Vega's Lord, Get Funky and Salty Humor.

Trainer Doug O’Neill won two races, giving him a Santa Anita meet record of 55 during the 85-day stand.  He broke his own two-year-old mark with 4-1 shot Charm N Broad in the first race and with 5-2 choice Topper’s Smiling in the sixth. “This is huge,” O’Neill said afterward. “It’s been an incredible season.”

He had broken Bob Baffert’s 1997 mark of 47 wins in 2005 when winning 54. He led last year with 50 victories.

Santa Anita concludes its 85-day race meeting on Sunday with a 10-race program highlighted by the 68th running of the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles on turf.

(Chart, Equibase)

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