Sky Kingdom leaves the others behind in the Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita.

Sky Kingdom leaves the others behind in the Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita.

Benoit Photo

Sky Kingdom Reigns Supreme in Tokyo City Cup

Westrock Stables' colt records first stakes win in 1 1/2-mile marathon test March 23.

Sky Kingdom , on the comeback trail for trainer Bob Baffert, spurted away from challenger Oilisblackgold in the stretch to easily record his first stakes victory in the marathon Tokyo City Cup (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park March 23 (VIDEO).

Westrock Stables' well-regarded 4-year-old son of Empire Maker was making his first start at the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City Cup distance. The bay colt had not previously gone longer than 1 1/16 miles.

He won for the second time in three starts since returning to action after nearly a year off with an allowance victory Jan. 24 at Santa Anita. Martin Garcia was once again aboard 5-1 shot Sky Kingdom, who finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of Oilisblackgold while timed in 2:30.56 over a fast main track.

"He really looked great today," said Baffert, who won his first stakes for Westrock Stables. "The only spot to run him was a mile and a half. I didn't know if he could do it, so it's pretty exciting.

"I wasn't sure how he would run today but he was training really well. It just worked out great, and he looked so beautiful in the paddock. He's a beautiful horse. I think any horse can go a mile and a half if it gets the right pace."

Bred in Kentucky by Jim J. FitzGerald out of the Kingmambo mare Sky Beam, Sky Kingdom was a $180,00 weanling purchase at Keeneland in November 2009.

Ten-year-old Calidoscopio, winner of the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) last fall and making his first start of the year, was a slight 5-2 choice as the 123-pound high weight with Aaron Gyder aboard. Dhaamer, a graded stakes winner on grass, was also sent off at 5-2. Dhaamer was second by a neck in last year's Tokyo City Cup in his only prior start on dirt.

Sky Kingdom flanked 25-1 outsider Batti Man in an opening half-mile of :48.94 and continued to press on the front end through a mile in 1:39.75 before drawing close heading into the final turf. Sky Kingdom reached the quarter pole in 2:05.45 with a head advantage over the Argentina-bred Batti Man and showed the way narrowly into the stretch as the closing Oilisblackgold loomed dangerously on the outside.

Those two pulled away from the rest of the field in the drive. Under vigorous handling by Garcia, Sky Kingdom repelled the challenge of Oilisblackgold to lead by 1 1/2 lengths mid-stretch, and edged away under urging through the final eighth of a mile to win comfortably.

"I let my horse break on his own and just cruise around," Garcia said. "He relaxed perfectly, and when I kicked in he just took off. My plan was to let somebody go to the lead and let my horse sit on the outside and stay comfortable, and that is exactly the way it went today."

Oilisblackgold, ridden by Edwin Maldonado, was a clear second by 4 1/4 lengths over the late-running Richard's Kid , with Tyler Baze aboard. Then came Batti Man, followed by Argentina-bred Calidoscopio, Dhaamer, Dreamcatcher, and Jaycito, who was eased late.

Sky Kingdom, making his first stakes appearance since finishing sixth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in February 2012, earned his fourth lifetime win in nine starts. He boosted his bankroll to $233,730.

The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $12.20, $6, and $3.80 as the co-fourth choice with Oilisblackgold, who returned $5.40 and $4. The exacta was worth $46.60. The show price on Richard's Kid was $3.60.