Blocked in traffic mid-stretch, odds-on favorite Loup Breton altered course to the outside and burst home to overtake High Court Drama by a half-length to win the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) on the turf Jan. 24 at Santa Anita Park.
Jockey Garrett Gomez had plenty of horse but nowhere to go aboard the French-raced Loup Breton, who displayed an explosive turn of foot in the closing furlong to register his first graded stakes win in the United States. Loup Breton, a 6-year-old Irish-bred son of Anabaa owned by Guy Wildenstein, was a group II winner at Longchamp in 2008 and ran a close second there to Vision d'Etat in last April's Prix Ganay Grand Prix Air Mauritius (Fr-I).
Gomez won the 10-furlong San Marcos for the third successive year following Champs Elysees in 2008 and Artiste Royal in '09. This year's San Marcos, the 58th running, was originally set for Martin Luther King Day Jan. 18 but had to be rescheduled when the program was canceled due to heavy rainfall and a poorly draining main track.
“He’s getting better adapted to our American style of racing with each start." Gomez said of the winner. "He was very handy with me today and he did his job.
"Around the (far) turn, there was nowhere to go. I was just in a little pocket and it seemed like nothing would develop. On the turf, somebody’s going to stop and somebody’s going to kick on and you wait for that moment when they separate themselves and take advantage of it. He was loaded for bear, but I just had to wait.”
Julio Canani trains Loup Breton, who has won two of three U.S. starts since transferring from the Elie Lellouche stable in France. Loup Breton was second by a neck to Proudinsky in his most recent effort, the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT), over the Santa Anita turf course Dec. 27. Loup Breton gave a strong effort that day as well, just missing with a late rail bid.
Loup Breton got a good ground-saving position early in the San Marcos, racing mid-pack in the field of eight as Porfido, flanked by Aggie Engineer and High Court Drama, carved out relaxed early fractions of :23.55, :48.47 and 1:13.88. As the field made its way into the stretch run, Loup Breton was full of steam but had three in front of him and was pinned while slightly off the rail with Riviera Cocktail to his outside.
Avoiding heels, Gomez briefly attempted to squeeze Loup Breton between Aggie Engineer and High Court Drama approaching mid-stretch, but couldn't do it, forcing him to angle to the outside where his mount was able to wedge his way inside of Riviera Cocktail after bumping his rival just past the eighth pole. With nothing in his way to the wire, Loup Breton unleashed a dynamic charge on the outside to sweep past High Court Drama, who had edged away to lead by nearly two lengths in deep stretch.
The final time was 2:00.94 over a course labeled "good."
Afterward, Canani may have been criticizing the ride when he commented: “I told (Gomez) next time I was bringing in Sandy Hawley. It looked like I was in Deadwood. If the horse had been on the outside the other day (San Gabriel), he would have won. I preferred to be three-wide, and I would have had no problem."
High Court Drama, ridden by Michael Baze for trainer Doug O'Neill, was a clear second by 1 3/4 lengths over Riviera Cocktail, who continued willingly for Joel Rosario after being bumped by the winner. Dynamic Range was a half-length back in fourth and was followed by Pearl Fisher, Aggie Engineer, Porfido and Muhannak.
Loup Breton, who has faced many of the finest European stars in his career, improved his overall mark to 5-4-2 in 21 starts and earnings of $677,614 with the winner's purse of $90,000. Loup Breton debuted in the U.S. with a 1 1/4-length win over a classified allowance field going nine furlongs on the Hollywood Park turf in November. He has been favored in all three of his American races.
As far as Loup Breton's next start, Canani said he would "play by ear everything."
Dayton Investments bred Loup Breton. The bay horse is out of Louve, by Irish River.
Loup Breton carried a feathery 115 pounds to victory and paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 to win as the 3-5 elect. Irish-bred High Court Drama, also making his third start in the U.S. after racing previously in his native country, returned $4.80 and $3.60. The exacta was worth $14.40. Riviera Cocktail was $4.80 to show.
Deal Breaker and Zappa scratched.