San Fernando S. (gr. II)

(gr. II , 8.5f ,)

AIR COMMANDER (B h, 116 lb) $120,000
Point Given —Santaria , by Star de Naskra
B—Fair Way Equine, LLC, KY.; O—Clay, Robert N. and Salman, Faisal; T—Bob Baffert

Johnny Eves (B g, 120 lb) $40,000
Skimming —Capote's Halo , by Capote
B—Mooncoin LCC, CA.; O—Mooncoin LLC; T—Jay M. Robbins

Tiago (B h, 122 lb) $24,000
Pleasant Tap —Set Them Free , by Stop the Music
B—Mr. & Mrs. Jerome S. Moss, KY.; O—Moss, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome S.; T—John A. Shirreffs

Margins: nose, 1¼, 1¼. Others: Ravel 116($12,000) , Sahara Heat 116($4,000) , Great Hunter 120 , Monzante 116 , Hurry Up Austin 116 , Smooth and Savvy 116 , Frank the Barber 118 , Big Bad Leroybrown 118 . Winning Jockey, Aaron T. Gryder.

Air Commander must not have seen the tote board. In a spine-tingling drive to the wire, the 52-1 shot belied his odds to stride home strong and sure in the $200,000 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. It took a ferocious duel through the stretch of the 11¼16-mile event, but Air Commander prevailed by a nose to cement the promise apparent early in his career.

Trainer Bob Baffert has repeatedly said the recently-turned 4-year-old was always long on talent, but short on maturity. He’s a massive colt and has taken a little extra time to develop.

Impressive maiden and allowance wins last winter led to a second in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) last March. Air Commander was briefly considered a contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but didn’t keep up with his more precocious counterparts and got an eight-month freshening instead.

Air Commander is the second graded stakes winner for his dam, the Star de Naskra mare Santaria. The New Jersey-bred mare broke her maiden in the New Jersey Futurity in her first start, then was runner-up in four graded events, including the Acorn Stakes (gr. I).

Robert N. Clay, founder of Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky., bought Santaria in partnership with his late father midway through her racing career. She proved a fortuitous investment.

Her second foal for the team was a $95,000 buyback later named Medallist. The Touch Gold colt raced as a homebred and won the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and two other graded events. Medallist stood his first two seasons at Three Chimneys, but will stand at Northview Stallion Station near Chesapeake City, Md., for 2008.

Like Medallist, Air Commander also was a buyback for Clay, although at a steeper $400,000 tag. He was officially bred by Clay and Fair Way Equine, the latter a partnership between Clay’s father, Albert, and brother, John.

Air Commander now races as a homebred for Clay and Faisal Salman, a member of the Saudi royal family. His late brothers, Ahmed and Fahd, found success in Thoroughbreds as well. The former’s major runners included 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner War Emblem, and Fahd’s best runners included 1991 Ever Ready Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Generous.

“Robert still has Santaria’s (3-year-old) Sky Mesa colt (named Formidable), the 2-year-old colt by Touch Gold, and the Smarty Jones yearling colt,” said Anne Peters, seasons and matings advisor for Three Chimneys. “Formidable is in training with Allen Jerkens, who also trained Medallist. The Smarty Jones yearling is pointed toward the Keeneland September sale. The mare is in foal to Bernardini and booked to Dynaformer. She’s been a real gem for the farm.”

Point Given, Horse of the Year in 2001, is the sire of nine stakes winners. His three 2007 added-money winners included Canadian Horse of the Year Sealy Hill and Fayette Stakes (gr. III) winner Go Between. Point Given stands at Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm, where his 2008 fee will be $15,000.—J.W.