Slim Shadey, given a crafty front-running ride by David Flores, pirated the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) at rainy Santa Anita Feb. 11 at 11-1 odds. He held off a flying Utopian by a head on the turf for his first stakes win (VIDEO).
The light has come in the past two starts to reveal the real Slim Shadey, Phil Cunningham's British homebred 4-year-old son of Val Royal. The Simon Callaghan-trained gelding won his prior race at the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos distance against an optional claiming field.
Flores, as he has done so many times in his career, took control of a race in which no one seemed to want the lead. He managed to get Slim Shadey to the wire just ahead of the fast-closing Utopian, a 13-1 shot in a field reduced to six by a pair of scratches. Slim Shadey completed the 10 furlongs in 2:01.55 on a grass course rated firm.
"Nobody had speed so we decided to take a chance and take the lead," Flores said. "At that post position I didn’t want to be carried wide so we took a chance and it worked out fine. I believe this horse is getting better every race. The last race he showed a lot, and he showed even more today."
Norvsky, taking the overland route for Joe Talamo, finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Utopian and Mike Smith, with second choice Bourbon Bay a half-length farther back in fourth. Sanagas, the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) winner sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the San Marcos, chased Slim Shadey to mid-stretch but gave in and finished last.
The San Marcos win was just Slim Shadey's third in 16 lifetime starts. Yet, it was obvious his connections thought much of the dark bay who is out of the Chief's Crown mare Vino Veritas. Though unplaced, Slim Shadey had competed in such races as the Qipco English Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and the Abu Dhabi Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) as a 3-year-old. He has now started three times in the United States for Callaghan, winning two.
"I thought he was in tough today, but when you can go to the front and have tactical speed like him, it’s good," Callaghan said. "There was no real pace in the race and David just gave him a perfect ride. The plan was to go to the front and it’s nice when the plans come off.”
From his post toward the outside, Flores guided Slim Shadey to the front, where he maintained a comfortable advantage over Utopian and the German-bred Sanagas while carving quarter-mile fractions of :24.39, :49.02, and 1:13.58. Sanagas had moved into position in second for Joel Rosario on the far turn and appeared ready to challenge for the lead.
But Slim Shadey had more in the tank, inching away again in the lane as Sanagas struggled to keep up. Utopian, who had lost some ground rounding the turn, angled out a bit at mid-stretch and was charging along with Norvsky on the far outside. But Slim Shadey dug in for the final sixteenth, getting home under strong urging from Flores as Utopian surged for the wire in a terrific finish.
Callaghan was noncommittal about Slim Shady's next start. The next important race in the handicap grass series at Santa Anita is the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) March 18.
Slim Shady, who boosted his career earnings to $212,038, carried 118 pounds and returned $25.20, $8.40, and $4.80. Jerry and Ann Moss' Utopian, who was also seeking his first stakes win for trainer John Shirreffs, returned $9.80 and $5.20 while rounding out a $175.20 exacta. Norvsky, winner of the San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT) in game fashion last month for trainer Don Warren, paid $4.60.
Bourbon Bay was followed by Ashtar and Sanagas. The Usual Q. T. and Worth Repeating were scratched.