Setsuko, beaten a nose at 25-1 in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), punched his ticket for a return trip March 3 with a comfortable victory in an allowance test in finale at Santa Anita Feb. 4.
His 2 1/4-length triumph came in the first start for the 5-year-old gelded son of Pleasantly Perfect since the Aug. 28 Pacific Classic (gr. I), in which he finished last of nine.
“His schedule was a little tight, which is why I wasn’t sure he would make the Big ‘Cap this year, but it worked out fine,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said on the morning of Feb. 5. “Three weeks ago I didn’t think he was quite that fit and then his works just stepped right up so I said, ‘Let’s go.’"
With regular pilot Victor Espinoza aboard, Setsuko stalked the pace along the inside in the 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race. He bid three deep to get a slight advantage in upper stretch and won ridden out after kicking clear at the furlong pole. Setsuko, who has just two wins in 17 lifetime starts, registered his first victory since 2009.
“He ran good yesterday and came out good, so we’ll give it another try,” Mandella said of a return to the Big 'Cap.
In last year's roughly run race, Setsuko was bumped in the stretch after a wide trip, yet nearly defeated the victorious Game On Dude in the charge for the wire at odds of 25-1. Wertheimer and Frere's homebred. Setsuko has earnings of $506,486.