Bob Black Jack had a 14-month layoff to overcome but all the cards were in his favor when he wired the field in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) by 2 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita Feb. 20 (VIDEO).
With regular rider David Flores aboard, the 5-year-old Bob Black Jack repulsed a bid from Ventana in the stretch and won the seven-furlong San Carlos under steady handling in 1:21.05 over the Pro-Ride track. Drifting out a little in the lane, the time was not nearly as fast as the 1:20.20 he turned in while winning the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) in his last start Dec. 26, 2008, but it was an impressive effort nonetheless.
Bob Black Jack was in command after getting an opening quarter-mile in :23 while opening a comfortable edge over Ventana, who tracked in second all the way around. The half-mile time was :45.58. That was key, said winning trainer James Kasparoff.
"That looked like it was going to be hard on the rest of them and probably a little easier for us," he said. "That was nice to see. I felt when I saw that (opening split), that things would probably go good for us today."
“He’s been working very well and I’ve worked him every week," Flores said of Bob Black Jack's preparation for his return. "We have a good connection. He’s a great horse and we’ve had some great memories. Today, he missed the first couple jumps away from the gate, but he’s got so much natural speed, he made the lead right away and he relaxed really well. I was glad that we didn’t get too much pressure to the turn because I was concerned about the last quarter, but he was ready.”
Ventana, ridden by Victor Espinoza, held second by a half-length over a rallying Supreme Summit and Rafael Bejarano.
Dancing in Silks, the 7-5 favorite in the field of six, stalked in third for most of the way but did not respond when asked by jockey Joel Rosario. The Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner last fall weakened to finish fifth, 7 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Carla Gaines, who trains Dancing in Silks, sought a big effort from the 5-year-old gelding following his third-place finish in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) last month in his first start following the Breeders' Cup.
“He (Joel Rosario) said he just sort of flattened out from the quarter pole home, which he did.”
Kasparoff, who trains the California-bred Bob Black Jack for his brother Tim Kasparoff and Jeff Harmon, said there were several possibilities for his next start, including the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) on March 27.
A former world record holder for six furlongs, the son of Stormy Jack--Molly's Prospector (by Native Prospector), suffered a leg injury while preparing for the 2009 Sunshine Millions Sprint.
"I put a lot a lot of work into this horse in the mornings," James Kasparoff said. "He had a lot of foundation, and I figured with the long layoff that he’d probably run a little harder than he might if he was off three or four months. I was quietly confident, but when you haven’t run for a year and two months, you’ve got a built-in excuse right there.
"I would have been surprised if (Ventana) ran past him (in the stretch). For a second there, it looked like maybe he had a shot at him, but we just had too much horse. You can’t let him go in :23 and :45. You’re probably going to be chasing him all the way around the track.”
Bettors weren't convinced, sending the Bob Black Jack off as the third choice in the small field. He carried 120 pounds, one less than the favorite, and paid $10.20, $5.20 and $4.80. Ventana, who was second in the Palos Verdes in his last start as well for trainer Bob Baffert, returned $3.80 and $3.40. The exacta was $38. Supreme Summit paid $4.20 to show.
Bestdressed finished fourth, followed by Dancing in Silks and Quietly Mine.
The lightly raced Bob Black Jack earned $90,000 for his fifth victory in 11 starts, boosting his career total to $684,925. Second in the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), Bob Black Jack went on to finish 16th after setting the pace for a half-mile in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Gary and Marlene Howard and Bruce Dunmore bred the dark bay or brown horse.