Stalking Anthony's Cross, wearing blinkers for the first time, defeated Riveting Reason by a nose to win the $250,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) after prohibitive favorite Tapizar flamed out early at Santa Anita Feb. 12 (VIDEO).
Trainer Eoin Harty opted to run Anthony's Cross in the Lewis although he had also entered the 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields as well. But Harty decided he had a better opportunity by staying home with his colt in the 1 1/8-mile test.
"With the exception of Tapizar, the rest of the field was unproven, a bunch of turf horses," Harty said. "We didn't know if we'd win (with Tapizar in the field), but we thought we'd run a good race."
Anthony's Cross was 9 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Tapizar in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 15 but has been improving with the addition of the hood, Harty said.
“We've toyed with the idea off and on (of adding blinkers) since his first start," Harty said. "I just thought he'd come around and mature mentally on his own and he didn't, so I felt it was time to give him a little help. We worked him with the blinkers twice prior to this race and he showed vast improvement both times. He's just been kind of a big Baby Huey and it's taken him a while to get focused."
The Lewis is part of track owner MI Developments' "Preakness 5.5" bonus program, which puts Anthony's Cross on the path to the next objective of the $5.5 million series, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 9.
"I've got to decide whether to give him one more start before the Santa Anita Derby or just sit and wait," Harty said. "It's a long time between now and then so it takes some serious consideration.”
Tapizar, a front-running 4 1/4-length victor in the Sham, was pulling hard after breaking second for Garrett Gomez behind 68-1 Quail Hill. He was throwing his head about as he chased the early leader between horses, getting the lead and pulling away by about two lengths on the clubhouse turn. Tapizar continued to travel fast on the backstretch, clicking off quarter-mile fractions of :22.48 and :45.64.
Anthony's Cross, with Joel Rosario aboard, was well-positioned in second and Riveting Reason was right behind them three wide with Victor Espinoza, and by the time they reached the three-eights pole in 1:09.92, the leader's advantage had diminished to a head. Anthony's Cross battled on the outside of Tapizar around the final turn and took a narrow lead into the stretch as Riveting Reason, three wide, advanced to challenge.
It became a two-horse race down the lane. In a terrific stretch duel, Riveting Reason drew even and appeared to have an edge near mid-stretch. But Anthony's Cross fought back under left-handed urging from Rosario along the inside and kept his nose in front in the final couple of jumps. The two rivals appeared to brush in deep stretch. The final time was 1:48.63 over a fast track.
Rosario said Anthony's Cross raced comfortably throughout.
"I stayed a little closer to the pace today but it probably didn’t make the difference in the race," Rosario said. "He’s a good horse and it was no surprise to see him run that good.”
Quail Hill finished third, 4 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up, with Thirtyfirststreet fourth. Tapizar, the 120-pound high weight sent off at 3-10 odds, faded to fifth and created some big show payoffs as a result. Wegner and Ten Devils trailed.
“He seems to be walking okay right no , but he’s pretty tired,.” trainer Steve Asmussen said of Tapizar after the race.
“He was super aggressive today," Gomez said of the favorite. "I couldn’t ever really get him shut off too much. He was kind of wound in post parade, a little antsy at the gate. He was a little more of a handful. He was just antsy. I thought when he cleared and made the lead he would come back to me but he never really would. He just kept pulling.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge Jr. and owned by Arianne de Kwiatkowski’s A D K Racing, Anthony's Cross was purchased for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale in 2009. The bay is out of Screening, by Unbridled.
Anthony's Cross lost the first three races of his career, starting out at Saratoga and moving to Keeneland in the fall. He broke his maiden in his final start as a 2-year-old Nov. 4 by 2 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles. His Sham effort, in which he raced mid-pack most of the way, was his first start as a 3-year-old.
Overall, Anthony's Cross has a 2-0-2 mark in six tries and has earned $195,020. The Lewis victory was worth $150,000 to his connections.
Sent off as the third choice, Anthony's Cross carried 118 pounds and paid $18.60, $8, and $15.60 while topping a $99.20 exacta. Riveting Reason, third in both the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) last season, returned $7.60 and $15.20 in his first start of the year. Quail Hill, a maiden winner in his last start for trainer David Hofmans, was $48.60 to show.