Fast-improving Kinsale King made it back-to-back graded stakes victories for new trainer Carl O'Callaghan when he held off Ventana by a half-length in an all-out drive for the wire in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 23 (VIDEO). Odds-on choice Dancing in Silks wound up third in his first start since capturing the $2 million Senient Jet Breeders' Sprint (gr. I) over the same track Nov. 7.
The Palos Verdes highlighted the first day of racing at Santa Anita since Jan. 17. The track, hit hard by rain this week, canceled three programs (Jan. 18 and 21-22) because its Pro-Ride racing surface failed to drain properly.
The 9-1 shot Kinsale King, owned by Dr. Patrick Sheehy’s Super Horse, is bound for Dubai and the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) March 27, the Irishman O'Callaghan said afterward.
"I promised Dr. Sheehy we'd be going to Dubai, so I guess that's where we're heading," he told HRTV.
With Martin Garcia aboard, Kinsale King overtook the pacesetting Eaton's Gift mid-stretch and dug deep under heavy urging approaching the wire to hold off the determined charge of Ventana, ridden by Joe Talamo.
"He never gave up, he just kept going,” Garcia said.
The 9-10 choice Dancing in Silks stalked the leaders in fourth for Joel Rosario and rallied in the stretch as well, but could not match strides with the first two in the final stages and finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. The Eclipse Award finalist in the sprinter category carried top weight of 123 pounds and spotted the winner seven pounds while also contending with the rail post.
The scratches of Malibu (gr. I) winner M One Rifle and Ez Dreamer had a big effect on the outcome in the Palos Verdes, since both were expected to be part of a contentious pace duel.
Kinsale King has now won three in a row since O'Callaghan took over the training duties from Eoin Harty last fall. In his most recent start, the 5-year-old Yankee Victor gelding led all the way in scoring a neck triumph over Delta Storm in the Vernon O. Underwood (gr. III) at Hollywood Park Dec. 6.
“He’s so good to me, this horse, I don’t believe it," said O'Callaghan, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher who won his first graded stakes with Kinsale King in the Underwood. "I told Martin to take his time, be patient. We’ll go straight to Dubai.
"I didn’t sleep for two days and two nights (before this race)," O'Callaghan added. "Dr. Sheehy is a super guy and he’s got a ton of confidence in me, but the horse is the most important thing. I get on him every day and he just puts out. It’s hard to explain."
Kinsale King settled in second on the outside of Eaton's Gift, who was determined to get the lead and showed the way while under pressure from Kinsale King through quarter-mile splits of :22.25 and :44.80. Kinsale King was between rivals as Ventana sat just a half-length off the vying leaders through the opening half-mile.
Eaton's Gift shortened stride in the stretch run and Kinsale King held a slight lead over Ventana at the furlong pole, then inched clear while drifting in a bit under encouragement from Garcia. A willing Ventana gathered himself for a big run at the leader in deep stretch, but came up a little short.
Supreme Summit launched a mild bit to finish a half-length behind Dancing in Silks in fourth. He was followed by Quietly Mine, Paul's Hope and Eaton's Gift.
Kinsale King earned $90,000 for his fourth win in seven tries and boosted his career bankroll to $207,080.
Out of the Woodman mare Flaming Mirage, the dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Marvin Little Jr.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Kinsale King paid $20.20, $9.80 and $4.40. Ventana, who won an allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita Dec. 27 for trainer Bob Baffert, returned $11.60 and $4.40 and was part of a $154.80 exacta. Dancing in Silks, who is also expected to head for the Golden Shaheen this spring, was $2.60 to show.
"I just think he was spotting a lot of weight, the track’s a little tiring, and he missed one work on the comeback, so he ran very respectfully," trainer Carla Gaines said of Dancing in Silks. "It looks like he just got a little tired.”