Mountain Rage kicked clear of Doc Holiday in the stretch to win Sunday's $82,050 La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita. Under Victor Espinoza, the Bob Baffert-trained son of Mecke completed the mile in 1:34.84 on firm turf.
With the temporary rail out 15 feet, Doc Holiday assumed the early lead through fractions of :23.48 and :47.27, with Mountain Rage seventh of eight. Stormy Fever, who pressed the leader early on, moved up closer to trail be a head after six furlongs run in 1:11.20. Mountain Rage had moved up to fifth by that point and rallied along the inside on the turn for home, before launching a winning bid in the stretch.
"I kind of got lucky," said Espinoza. "I was forced to go inside on the turn, but it worked out well. Once he saw daylight, he had a very good kick to the wire. I've seen this horse run in almost every one of his races, and I knew he was very good horse. But one thing I'd noticed was that he can be a little bit lazy, and so the plan was to ride him pretty hard today. But he did everything right, and he was very powerful in the stretch. But still, I was worried when I was stuck down on the inside. One we got outside, he did the rest."
Doc Holiday finished second, three lengths behind the winner. Stormy Fever came home third, followed by Johar, Don't Holler, Night Passion, Dark Sorceror, and Red Briar.
Mountain Rage earned $49,230 for owners David Jacobs and Jill Moss. The win marks his fifth in nine career starts and third stakes win of the Santa Anita meet. Previously, the 3-year-old won the listed Academy Road and Hill Rise Stakes. Mountain Rage is the fourth horse to win three stakes races at the meet, joining Came Home, Megahertz, and Snow Ridge. As a 2-year-old he won the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) before finishing seventh in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) on the main track.
"I was a little worried at the three-eighths pole, there was no where for him to go, but he just keeps getting better and better -- I wish he could run on dirt," said Baffert. I was training him for the Santa Anita Derby before his last race, and I think I was a little too hard on him. This time, training for the turf, I backed him up so he had a bigger kick today. A mile is a little short for him because he's just getting rolling. He's got a lot of heart, this horse."
Mountain Rage paid $5.60, $3.40, and $2.80. Doc Holiday returned $7 and $5.20. Stormy Forever paid $5.40 to show. The $1 exacta paid $24.60. (Chart, Equibase