Bienamado leaned against the stall webbing, craning his neck down the shedrow. The sinews beneath his glowing coat were alluring, and there was no mistaking the urgent look cast by his white-rimmed eyes. As the stalwart colt strained for something to chow down on, nowhere were there signs that just an hour earlier he had been stretched to the limits of class and stamina. There was no trace of fatigue, no wrung-out guise you might expect from an animal who had not only pulled down the $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at about 1 3/4 miles, but did it fast. Faster than Cougar II or Exceller. Faster than John Henry, Kotashaan, or even his very own sire, Bien Bien. The small crowd gathered near his stall was simply awed.
Big-time races for fillies and mares and marathons for grass stayers usually have zero impact in the countdown to the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). There was, nevertheless, a million-dollar ring to both the $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 18 and the $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) the day before. By the time the weekend was in the books and the results began to sink in, the only thing anyone knew for sure was there really is nothing for sure.
Persianlux, the longest shot in the race at 27-1, led every step of the way and rolled to a five-length victory Saturday in the grade II, $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita Park. Ridden by Tyler Baze at 113 pounds, Persianlux ran 1-1/2 miles on a firm turf course in 2:27.70 and paid $57.20, $22.20 and $10.60. It was the first graded stakes victory for Baze, winner of the 2000 Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey. The 18-year- old rider became the youngest jockey to win a graded stakes race at Santa Anita since Steve Cauthen, who was also 18, rode J.O. Tobin to victory in the 1978 Malibu Stakes.
Bienamado, who had been expected to run in Saturday's San Luis Obispo Handicap, was not entered in the grade II turf race and instead will be pointed to the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3 for his first start on the main track, part-owner John Toffan said Thursday morning.
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