Battle of Hastings, an English-bred import making his second North American start for trainer Jeff Mullins, overhauled favored Flashmans Papers inside the final furlong en route to a 7-1 surprise in the $100,000 Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the Santa Anita hillside turf course March 1.
On a warm, sunshiny day when Santa Anita offered a "Snow Day" promotion (importing 200 tons of snow for its infield), a crowd of 17,972 turned out. The figure did not include an estimated 10,000 children, aged 17 and under, who were admitted free.
With Tyler Baze in the irons, the son of Royal Applause came from off the pace in the about 6 1/2-furlong event for 3-year-olds to win by 1 1/4 lengths in an outstanding time of 1:11.86, which was a record for the Baldwin.
Preemo, rallying along the rail in the final furlong under Joel Rosario, broke down in deep stretch and was removed from the track by van. There was no immediate word on the colt's condition.
In his only prior try in the States, Battle of Hastings broke slowly and was never a factor while finishing seventh of eight in the one-mile Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park Nov. 29. Mullins took his time bringing the bay gelding back and Battle of Hastings came around in recent works.
"We knew the horse had talent but he just really hadn't shown anything," said Mullins afterward.
"Last time it was hard because they flew him in right off the plane and you’ve obviously got high hopes for him but you don’t know what they’ve done before you’ve got him," added Mullins, who won the Baldwin in 2003 with eventual Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Buddy Gil. "He came and had two days of quarantine, I got to jog him twice, then I ran him. The problem was he had no (allowance) conditions so there was nowhere to really prep him to see what would work. He’s done it all off of training."
Battle of Hastings stalked from near the rear of the pack as Luckiest Man, pressed hard by an extremely rank Brother Keith, led the field of seven down the hillside through fractions of :22.28 and :44.30.
Flashmans Papers, who dropped in behind the leaders to track in third while racing along the inside for Rafael Bejarano, had a dream trip. Both of the pacesetters drifted out at the main-track crossover entering the homestretch, giving Flashmans Papers, the 7-5 pick, plenty of room to launch his bid. Flashmans Papers, with Dream Now bidding on the outside, got the lead approaching mid-stretch. But he was no match for Battle of Hastings, who closed impressively while four wide in deep stretch.
“Last time out it was his first race in this country, and he was just lost. He didn’t know what he was doing at all," said Baze, who rode him in the Generous. "He’s been a handful for Jeff, but I thought he’d run good today because in his last two works, it’s like the light bulb went on. He showed some heart today, splitting horses like he did, and I think he’s going to be a really nice horse.”
Flashmans Papers, winner of the Eddie Logan Stakes over the course at the beginning of the meet, settled for second, two lengths better than Luckiest Man and Victor Espinoza, who held on for third. Dream Now faded to fourth.
Owned by Michael House, Battle of Hastings earned his third triumph in seven lifetime starts while boosting his earnings to $93,875 with the winning purse of $60,000. He won his final two starts in England last summer -- once at Newmarket and once at Doncaster -- over soft going. Coincidentally, he was sent off at public odds of 7-1 in each of those races as well.
Myriad Communications and New England Stud bred the winner, who is out of the Night Shift mare Subya.
Battle of Hastings paid $17.60, $6.80, and $5.60. Flashmans Paper, also bred in Great Britain and trained by Doug O'Neill, returned $3 and $2.60, completing a $2 exacta worth $53. Luckiest Man was $4.80 to show.
It was 1 1/2 lengths to Dream Now, who was followed by Beauteous Maximus, second-choice Brother Keith, and Preemo. Dream of Kaylee scratched.