The 3-year-old Irish-bred Daytona was successful in his first try against older horses in the United States, recording a three-quarters-of-a-length win over Proudinsky in the nine-furlong San Gabriel. The Dan Hendricks trainee came into the race with back-to-back victories in the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) and Hollywood Derby (gr. IT).
After getting the lead from Citation Handicap (gr. I) victor Lang Field on the clubhouse turn, Mike Smith aboard Daytona was able to settle into easy fractions while maintaining a comfortable advantage over Lang Field and 9-5 choice Storm Military, who was rank early under Garrett Gomez. As was his pattern in his Oak Tree and Hollywood wins, Daytona edged away from his rivals in upper stretch as Proudinsky and Medici Code, closing in from the back of the six-horse field, tried to make a race of it.
Proudinsky, who failed to change leads while rallying on the outside under urging from Rafael Bejarano, was cutting into the winner's advantage when Smith went to the left-handed stick on Daytona late. The challenger could not get to the leader in time. Compromised by the slow pace, the late-running Medici Code, a troubled second to Daytona last time out at Hollywood, settled for third under Martin Pedroza. He finished 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Smith, a Hall of Fame rider, captured Santa Anita's La Brea Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies a day earlier with the surprising Dearest Trickski.
“I wanted to be on the lead, but the horse outside of me (Lang Field) out-broke me so I had to wait with him," Smith said. "When we got to the first turn, I just went on with him right into the turn and when we made the lead, he just threw his ears up and got into a rhythm. He’s got such a high cruising speed, he’s really tough on the lead.”
After quarter-mile fractions of :23 2/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 for the opening six furlongs, the final time was 1:47.57 on firm going.
A son of Indian Ridge bred by the Irish National Stud and owned by Jeff Davenport, Tom Lenner, Jess Ravich and Thomas Murray -- who race as Skyline Stables -- Daytona improved his career mark to 5-2-2 in 11 starts. His earnings jumped to $551,390 with the San Gabriel winning share of $90,000. Daytona, who did not race at 2, began his career competing on Polytrack in Great Britain.
Hendricks, who has been in a wheel chair since a motorcycle accident in 2004, noted, “Mike did great by taking him back a little that first part and then opening up on the first turn, and that’s what won the race.
"This horse really matured after Del Mar and my assistant, Francisco (Alvarado) did a lot with him. The horse put on weight and is real healthy right now, doing good, and he just came into his own.”
The trainer said he no immediate plans for Daytona’s next race.
Sent off as the second choice, Daytona carried 117 pounds to victory and paid $6.60, $3.80 and $2.80. Proudinsky, coming off a third-place finish in the Citation for trainer Bobby Frankel, returned $4.20 and $3.20. Medici Code, winner of the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) and Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) for Darrell Vienna this summer, was $3 to show.
Frankel also trains the Argentina-bred Storm Military, making his third North American start. Storm Military, a two-time grade I winner in his native country last winter, finished fourth. Lang Field and Sensational Humor trailed.
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