Making his stakes debut for hot trainer John Sadler, surprising Gladding dictated an easy pace and refused to give way in the stretch to capture the $150,000 San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 6 and snap the three-race win streak of 11-10 favorite Aggie Engineer (VIDEO) .
Gladding is a 4-year-old son of 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Sarava who began his career in Florida before being purchased privately this winter by Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable. In his second start for his new connections, Gladding completed the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio in a soft 1:48 flat while defeating Spurrier by one length. Aggie Engineer, attempting to rate while stuck wide behind a slow pace, rallied belatedly for third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Gladding.
In the past week, the former claiming trainer Sadler has also won the Santa Monica Stakes (gr. I) with Switch, the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) with Zazu, and the Strub Stakes (gr. II) with Twirling Candy , now the heavy favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 5 with Aggie Engineer's defeat.
"John called me one day and said, 'Lee, you ought to buy this horse.' We did it in about one hour," Lee Searing said. "I'm glad I did. The horse can run. Obviously, it set up perfectly for him. Down the stretch, he just dug in. All you have to do is touch John (right now) and you're lucky."
Ridden expertly by Rafael Bejarano, second choice Gladding broke third from the rail before staking an early lead along the inside and showing the way through pedestrian quarter-mile fractions of :23.69, :48.92, and 1:36.15. He was tracked by outsiders Pode Ir and Big Shot Syd, with Aggie Engineer on the far outside.
Rounding the final turn, Spurrier, ridden by Joel Rosario, made an eye-catching move from last in the six-horse field to challenge Gladding. But Gladding responded to the assault leaving the bend and continued on the lead through the lane before inching away in the final furlong. He held sway under some urging over Spurrier, who has now finished second in three consecutive graded stakes.
Aggie Engineer, who defeated Spurrier in both the Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) and San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) while building his winning streak, came under a ride from jockey Joe Talamo leaving the quarter pole but failed to make an impact. The 123-pound high weight edged Quindici Man by a half-length for the show spot. Big Shot Syd and the Brazilian-bred Pode Ir trailed.
“We thought it would be us or Aggie Engineer for the lead, so Bejarano wanted to bounce out of there a little bit and see what Talamo decided to do," Sadler said. "He (Talamo) took back a little bit and (we) inherited the trip we thought we might get. It’s fun when it works out like you think it might. It doesn’t always go like that, but right now, we’re in that space, so we’re really happy.”
Bejarano said he thought Talamo would go to the front on Aggie Engineer, but when he didn't, he decided to put Gladding there.
"I was really comfortable with the pace and I was waiting for the stretch," Bejarano said. "When I felt (Spurrier) come running from the outside, I made sure to try and keep my horse on the lead down the stretch and let him explode. He showed me a big kick."
Gladding, who broke his maiden at Calder in October by 17 1/4 lengths, scored in his Santa Anita debut by 2 1/4 lengths in a one-mile optional claiming allowance on a wet fast track Dec. 29.
Asked if Gladding would go on to the Santa Anita, Sadler said, "He’s another option for the Big ‘Cap also (with Twirling Candy), and if he’s doing well, and he’s ready, he’ll probably go in there with the other horse.”
The win improved Gladding's career mark to 3-2-1 in 10 races and the winning share of $90,000 more than doubled his career earnings to $161,825.
Kathryn C. Schultz bred Gladding, who is out of the Island Whirl mare Cannon Whirl, in Florida. The dark bay or brown gelding raced at Calder for trainer Harold Schultz in his earlier starts.
He carried 118 pounds and paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.40. Spurrier, owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by Bob Baffert, returned $4.20 and $2.20 and capped a $23 exacta. Ward and Roberta Williford's homebred Aggie Engineer was $2.10 to show.
Dakota Phone, who ran sixth in the Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) a day earlier, was scratched.