Never far off the leaders in the 1 1/2-mile marathon, Spring House surged to the lead mid-stretch for jockey Garrett Gomez and won with relative ease.
Owned and co-bred by R.D. Hubbard, Spring House won for the second time in four starts at the distance for trainer Julio Canani, replicating his sharp victory in Oak Tree's Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT) last fall. After the race, Canani said a decision would be made soon on shipping the 6-year-old Spring House to Nad al Sheba, presumably for the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at 2,400 meters on grass March 29.
Defending San Luis Obispo winner Obrigado was scratched by Neil Drysdale because of the turf condition earlier in the day. That left Spring House, third most recently in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) Dec. 8, as the solid favorite.
"Good horses, I like to space their races a little bit, and I’m glad I passed the San Marcos (Jan. 19)," Canani said. "He’s probably going to Dubai. I hope to know something in about a week.”
The Chesterhouse gelding was unhurried early as Porfido, soon overtaken by the Irish mare Sohgol, set out on a quick pace for the journey -- :47.33, :1:12.59 and 1:37.58.
Porfido took the lead into the stretch with pressure from Sohgol, but the stalkers closed in quickly. Spring House got first run on his rivals and drew off smartly in deep stretch to win in 2:27.21 on a course upgraded to "firm" before the race following light showers earlier in the afternoon. Gomez took a look over his right shoulder as Spring House took command to make sure there was no immediate danger from any of his rivals and went on to victory with slight urging.
“Those were legitimate fractions they were going up front and this course is soft right now," Gomez noted. "I was comfortable with where I was. I thought (Porfido) would go and I was glad when (Sohgol) went with him. My horse traveled beautifully for me the whole way. My main concern was keeping him out of trouble.”
Church Service, the longest shot in the eight-horse field at 20-1, closed with authority under Martin Garcia to take the runner-up spot by three-quarters of a length over second choice On the Acorn. The dual grade II winner was a little late finding his best stride for Victor Espinoza in his first start since last May and had to settle for third, three parts of a length in front of Porfido.
Spring House, among the leading turf stayers in Southern California since being transferred to Canani last summer, improved his record to 6-5-11 in 30 lifetime starts. The $90,000 winner's share in the 'Obispo increased the Kentucky bred's earnings to $544,284. He finished third in the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) and Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) prior to his win in the Burke.
The winner paid $5.40, $3.60 and $2.60, combining with Church Service ($15.80, $7.60) for a $2 exacta worth $92.20. The Great Britain-bred On the Acorn was $3.20 to show.
Porfido was followed by Sohgol, Isipingo, Rocket Legs and Sudan, an Italian group I winner making his first United States for trainer Bobby Frankel.
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