Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert got a rare grade I victory as a breeder when Misremembered held off Neko Bay by a half-length to capture the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 6 (VIDEO). Jockey Martin Garcia, riding in his first Big 'Cap, scored the biggest win of his career aboard the strapping son of Candy Ride .
Misremembered hit the front at the quarter pole and held on to defeat Neko Bay, who emerged from the pack approaching mid-stretch and advanced smartly along the rail for Mike Smith. Dakota Phone, who shadowed the winner into the stretch, held third in the 14-horse field.
The final time was 2:00.20 on the Pro-Ride racing surface, which held up well in spite of afternoon showers.
It was the second Santa Anita Handicap triumph for Baffert, who won it in 2000 with General Challenge. The trainer bought Misremembered's dam, Beyond Perfection (by Quack) for $4,500. His wife, Jill, is co-owner of the 4-year-old ridgling along with longtime family friend, George Jacobs. Misremembered went past the $1-million mark in career earnings with the win.
Jill Baffert, who kissed Misremembered on the nose in the winner's circle, was in tears afterward and could barely talk. The 4-year-old colt, after registering his first grade I triumph, ended a streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes in graded stakes since his win in last year's Indiana Derby (gr. II).
Bob Baffert credited Garcia for a great ride and his staff for preparing the horse so expertly for the race while he was away attending the Winter Olympic Games.
"I’ve been winning with this kid," Baffert said of Garcia. "Our numbers are really huge (14 wins from 51 runners, 27.4%). He just got (Misremembered) out there, and I think we just need to let him run. Last time I was so disappointed (when second at 7-10 odds in the Strub Stakes).
"He didn’t chase after that speed horse. He really dug in, and a mile and a quarter was not a problem for him.”
“I feel amazing, man!" Garcia exclaimed after replacing Victor Espinoza aboard Misremembered. "This is the first time I rode in the Big ‘Cap and I had the opportunity to make it to the winner’s circle. I’ve been working the horse, and Bob told me to give him a clear break and just not fight him. He wanted me to make one run, and that’s what I did.
"When my horse got to the lead I knew I still had a lot of horse. When the other horses started to come on, he never pulled up. My horse was able to keep going when (Neko Bay) was closing.”
St Trinians, attempting to become the first female to win the Santa Anita Handicap in 73 renewals, had a rough trip while finishing sixth as the 3-1 favorite.
“She had a tough time, but I give her credit," jockey Joel Rosario said. "The other horses were coming in on her. She was never comfortable in there. She was between horses much of the time and we got too far back. She moved a little bit after that, but it was just too much to make up.”
Mast Track went to the lead immediately and set a fast pace. Misremembered, breaking from the 13th post, also got away well and fell into a stalking position while second, holding that spot through quarter-mile fractions of :23.67, :47.06, and 1:10.81. Mast Track, who had a comfortable lead early, would eventually pay for the swift splits, fading to last as Misremembered took the lead on the final turn.
Misremembered inched away in the lane and opened up a daylight margin over Dakota Phone, ridden by Espinoza. Neko Bay emerged from between rivals mid-stretch for Smith and drove at the leader from the inside. But he had too much to do to catch Misremembered, who finished under strong urging from Garcia.
“He gave it a great run," Smith said of the runner-up. "I had to wait just a little. I got to the other horse (Misremembered), but he dug in. If you give me a few more jumps, I get him. But the winner dug in tough. I have to take my hat off to him.”
A big colt, Misremembered did not race at 2, breaking his maiden in his second start last April at Hollywood Park. He progressed rapidly, winning the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) prior to the Indiana Derby. He wrapped up last year's campaign with runner-up finishes in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs and the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita before running second to Big 'Cap rival Jeranimo in the Strub.
He improved his career mark to 5-4-0 in 11 starts and the winning purse of $450,000 for the Santa Anita boosted his overall earnings to $1,188,589.
Sent off as the third choice, Misremembered paid $10.80, $6, and $4.40 while heading a $92.20 exacta. Ann and Jerry Moss' Neko Bay, making his first start at 10 furlongs for trainer John Shirreffs, returned $7.80 and $6. Dakota Phone, after weakening a bit in the stretch, paid $10.40 to show.