On the Acorn, a $40,000 claim by trainer Mike Mitchell last November, closed with a rush to win the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) on the final day of the Santa Anita meeting Sunday.
The 6-year-old Inchinor gelding is owned by a group that includes Santa Anita and Hollywood Park publicist Jack Dizney, former Los Angeles Times sports writer Ross Newhan, and ex-Angels' catcher and manager Buck Rodgers.
He won the about 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (gr. IIT) by 1 1/2 lengths over the 17-10 choice of the public, Sweet Return.
"We started six years ago. six guys put in $3,500 apiece," said Dizney, who was a sports writer and editor for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. "Mike claimed one horse for $20,000. We've always been a one-horse stable. And we just won the San Juan Capistrano Handicap!
"I thought covering the first Super Bowl was the highlight of my career. No more."
Mitchell claimed the dark bay English bred from Patrick Gallagher out of a one mile claiming race at Hollywood Park Nov. 25.
"He came to us great. The only thing we had to do with him was geld him," Mitchell said. "He's been training real good. My job was to calm Jack down. This is a big race to win for Jack and all of his partners."
On the Acorn carried 114 pounds, three fewer than top-weighted Sweet Return.
Victor Espinoza provided a picture-perfect ride. On the Acorn, making his first start at the distance, settled in fifth as Sweet Return, ridden by Alex Solis, set a reasonable pace for the distance of :50 1/5, 1:14 3/5 and 1:41. Embossed provided pressure, making his bid between horses on the final turn as Icy Ridge began to tire. Fitz Flag, with G.F. Almeida aboard, was making up ground quickly but had to check in traffic when lacking room.
On the Acorn, who rallied three wide coming off the turn, had a clear path to the lead and took over nearing the eighth pole, drawing off in the final strides under left-handed urging. Fitz Flag squeezed between rivals to make a late run, but finished a neck behind Sweet Return. Embossed and One Off were two noses farther behind in fourth and fifth, respectively. The winning time was 2:48, more than five seconds outside the track mark set by Bienamado in the 2001 'Capistrano.
"At the three-eighths pole, I could see the favorite (Sweet Return) was struggling a little bit, and I had a ton of horse under me," Espinoza said. "At the quarter-pole he was really rolling, and I knew he was going to be very tough to beat. This horse can really finish.”
Since being claimed, On the Acorn has won three out of five for Mitchell. He closed gamely in his last race, the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/2 miles Feb. 25, to finish third, one-half length behind Obrigado. The victory was On the Acorn's sixth in 27 starts and increased his earnings to $410,812. He won for the fourth time in nine starts on the Santa Anita turf.
The other members of the ownership partnership are Dizney's brother Douglas, Paul Salata, and Fred Krueger. They race as Indizguys Stable.
On the Acorn paid $7.40, $3.80, and $3.
The multiple grade I winner Sweet Return, who has not won a graded stakes since the 2005 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT), returned $3.40 and $2.60.
"He fought hard down the stretch and especially since it was his first time going beyond a mile and a quarter," Solis said of the runner-up. "You have to be happy.”
Fitz Flag, third in the 2005 San Juan Capistrano, was $4.40 to show.
Boule d'Or and Icy Ridge trailed.