Chips All In ran down even-money choice Obviously in the final strides to record his first graded stakes victory in the $100,000 San Simeon Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course April 20 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Over very firm ground, the ultra-game Chips All In prevailed by a half-length and completed the about 6 1/2-furlong distance in 1:11.28, slightly off the course mark of 1:11.13. Tyler Baze was aboard the 4-year-old son of North Light for trainer Jeff Mullins and owners Jean Everest, John O'Brien, Danny Valdez, and Michelle Turpin.
Chips All In was coming off a tough nose defeat in the Joe Hernandez Handicap Feb. 23 down the hillside, his first start in more than six months. He earned a 104 Beyer figure in the Hernandez and proved that was no fluke in his second start of the year.
Obviously, a two-time grade II winner last year, was making his first start since running third in last fall's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) after setting a fast pace. He was heavily backed in the San Simeon, which attracted a field of six older sprinters after one scratch.
The fleet-footed Irish-bred was off a little slowly but quickly came through along the inside to take the early lead over Sirocco Strike and Chips All In. Obviously opened up a three-length advantage while ripping off an opening quarter mile of :21.52, then clipped off the half in :43.16 while still in command. Obviously continued to lead past the eighth pole but began to drift in the final sixteenth as Chips All In, three wide on the outside, wore him down late under urging from Baze.
Baze said he full confidence in Chips All In.
"I wasn't concerned about today at all," he said. "Not with the way he's been training; he's training lights out. He's a real special horse and it's just a privilege to be on him. He's a really cool horse."
Of more immediate concern to Baze was a wildfire in the foothills near Santa Anita where his home is located.
"I don't think my home is in jeopardy. I know they have evacuated everyone out form that area but I just want to finish up, get home and get the dogs out so they're safe," he said.
Obviously, ridden by Joe Talamo, held second by 1 1/4 lengths over Chosen Miracle, who was bottled up along the inside in the lane for Rafael Bejarano.
"He's coming off a long layoff so it was a perfect race for him, and it should set him up for the summer," Talamo said of Obviously.
Drill, closing from far back, wound up fourth on the far outside, with Sirocco Strike and Koast trailing. Ain't No Other scratched.
Chips All In, bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, is out of the multiple stakes-winning Maria's Mon mare Maria's Mirage. The bay colt sold for $4,500 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2010.
Third in last summer's La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Del Mar going 1 1/16 miles, Chips All In has also shown ability around two turns. He won last year's one-mile Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita as well. He improved his career mark to 6-4-1 in 13 races with earnings of $327,955.
Chips All In, sent off as the 2-1 second choice, paid $6.60, $3.20, and $2.20 while carrying 118 pounds. Obviously, the 120-pound co-high weight, returned $2.80 and $2.10. The exacta was $13.20. Chosen Miracle paid $2.80.
With Mullins away to attend a horse sale in Ocala, assistant trainer Ral Ayers handled the San Simeon saddling duties.
"Obviously had to run hard to get up to the lead after not getting away, so we were worried about him," said Ayers. "He's tough on the lead, but maybe he needed one. Who knows? We'll take what we can get."