Late-running Home Run Kitten went deep to nab favored Ambitious Brew by a nose in the $101,500 Eddie D. Stakes (gr. IIIT) to conclude opening-day action of the autumn meet at Santa Anita Park with a 10-1 upset over the hillside turf course Sept. 26 (VIDEO).
Home Run Kitten registered his third win in the past four starts for Tarabilla Farms and trainer David Hofmans with regular rider Joe Talamo aboard, handing 2-1 choice Ambitious Brew his first loss in four tries over the unique downhill turf course. The final time for the about 6 1/2-furlong distance over firm going was 1:11.94, more than a second off the course record.
The victory was the first in a graded event for 3-year-old Home Run Kitten, who won a minor stakes when favored going a mile over the Santa Anita lawn June 21. He was fifth in his only start since then, the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) Aug. 31.
"I think he's a come-from-behind sprinter, myself," said Hofmans, a longtime Southern California trainer who celebrated his first win in the race, previously known as the Morvich Handicap. "We tried to get into the game wrong with 3-year-olds hoping we could do something like the Triple Crown, but I think a mile and an eighth is too far."
Ambitious Brew, ridden by Mike Smith, had overtaken Artest for the lead near mid-stretch and opened up a slight advantage. But Home Run Kitten, who was racing last of 11 down the hill, was angled out for the drive and surged impressively through the lane under right-handed urging to get up with an extremely well-timed ride by Talamo.
Lil Bit O'Fun ran on late for third with Aaron Gryder aboard, finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind, while Pure Tactics was fourth.
A chestnut son of Kitten's Joy out of the Grand Slam mare Grand Slam Girl, Home Run Kitten was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Kitten's Joy stands at Ramsey Farm.
While not a Breeders' Cup Challenge race, The Eddie D. has produced several starters in the BC Tuf Sprint (gr. IT) in recent years.
"We won (the Turf Sprint) in 2008 with Desert Code for the same owner," Hofmans said. "We might do the same thing. (Desert Code) paid 80 bucks that day. This horse might pay 40."
Sizzling quarter mile fractions of :21.41 and :43.44 set by Global Power and Artest—with Snowday and Mr. Sexy in pursuit—helped set up the late-running charge from both Home Run Kitten and Ambitious Brew.
"He's a horse that's better when you put a little pace in front of him," said Talamo, who won the race previously in 2008 and 2009 with California Flag. "We were disappointed with his last out in the Del Mar Derby because he was training so well. They went pretty slow up front that day, though."
The opening-day card featured the unveiling of Santa Anita's new dirt track, which played in favor of front-runners but in reasonable times. Two horses—Senator Bob, last of seven in race 2, and Ava's Ballet, seventh in race 6—were vanned off the track after completing their races.
Tons of new dirt, known as El Segundo sand, was brought from an excavation construction project going on at Los Angeles International Airport to be installed at the track over the summer. The surface has received favorable reviews from horsemen who have been training their horses over it since Santa Anita reopened.
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, for whom the Eddie D. Stakes is named, was on hand to present the winning trophy to Susan Osborne of Tarabilla Farms.
Home Run Kitten is now 2-for-2 over the hillside course after breaking his maiden impressively in his second lifetime start in January. Now a four-time winner from six starts on the Santa Anita grass, he owns an overall lifetime mark of 4-1-2 in nine races with earnings of $217,800.
The sixth choice in the field while carrying a feathery 115 pounds, Home Run Kitten paid $23.40, $9.80, and $5.80, and topped an $85 exacta. Ambitious Brew, an unlucky loser, returned $4.80 and $3.80, while Lil Bit O'Fun was worth $3.60 to show.
Pure Tactics was followed by, in order, Artest, Eddie's First, Mr. Sexy, Snowday, Unbridled's Note, Gallant Son, and Global Power. No Silent was on the also-eligible list.