Last at the head of the stretch, million-dollar earner Jeranimo overpowered his rivals to win the $150,500 San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) going away on the turf at Santa Anita Park Jan. 13.
B.J. Wright's 7-year-old son of Congaree won the San Gabriel for the second time in three years. He scored by 2 3/4 lengths as the 2-1 second choice over Temple's Door, who got up for second by a half-length over pacesetter Chosen Miracle. The final time for 1 1/8 miles on firm going was 1:46.50.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano won the San Gabriel for the fifth consecutive time aboard Jeranimo. Trained by Michael Pender, the big bay was second in last year's race after winning the San Gabriel in December 2010.
"I had a ton of horse from the beginning all the way to the end," Bejarano said. "I never had to use the stick. He just galloped the whole race. Coming into the stretch I asked a little bit, and he responded with a big kick. The way he ran today was impressive."
Bejarano missed some mounts a day earlier after a spill, but was cleared to ride Jan. 13.
Bred in Florida by Brylynn Farm, the winner is out of the stakes-winning mare Jera, by Jeblar. Jeranimo earned a grade I victory in the Shoemaker Mile in June at Betfair Hollywood Park but had dropped his last three decisions. He was making his first appearance since a fourth-place finish in Hollywood's Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 23.
Slim Shadey, the 3-2 favorite in the field of seven older runners, faded in the stretch after launching a bid on the far turn to reach contention, and finished next-to-last.
Bejarano took Jeranimo back after the start, angling to the rail from their far outside post as Chosen Miracle went to the front immediately after the break. Chosen Miracle set a solid pace while creeping a length or more away from outsiders Fast Track and Temple's Door, with Slim Shadey tracking in fourth. Fractions were :22.98, :46.75, and 1:10.98.
Slim Shadey advanced going into the far turn, angling out to the three path and cruised up alongside the leaders as they made their away around the bend. Meantime, Jeranimo was picking up steam from the back after trailing the pacemaker by as many as 10 lengths after a half mile.
Chosen Miracle maintained a one-length advantage to mid-stretch over Temple's Door as Slim Shady gave way. But the leader was no match for the streaking Jeranimo, who reached the front in full flight approaching the sixteenth pole on the outside and drew off impressively.
"(Jeranimo) has run so often that he knows what he's doing during a race," Bejarano said. "You can put him wherever you want. He can be on the lead or he can come from behind. He always comes up with a good run in the end."
Temple's Door, angled off the rail in the lane by Tyler Baze, closed best of the others to nod Chosen Miracle and Joe Talamo for second, with Juniper Pass fourth. Then came Tale of a Champion, Slim Shadey, and Fast Track.
Jeranimo was an also-ran in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) the past two years, finishing sixth last November at Santa Anita after trailing the field to mid-stretch. The San Gabriel win, his ninth victory in 32 lifetime starts, pushed his earnings to $1,197,400.
Pender and Wright have been a successful team in the past few seasons in Southern California. The trainer said he knew Wright when he was a youngster and they found each other years later at the racetrack. They've got more plans for their veteran turf star.
"We have always had dreams of running in the Arlington Million," Pender said. "We think this horse can go a mile and a quarter if he gets his trip and gets the right pace in front of him. As he gets older we are going to try and turn him into a marathoner. He might just surprise a few people. I don't think he's ever been a miler but that's where we were in the last couple of years."
"He's 7 now and he wantes to keep running," Wright told HRTV. "How many full horses do you know that want to do that? We're going to run him until he tells us he wants to quit."
Toting 120 pounds, three fewer than the top-weighted Slim Shadey, he returned $6, $3.80, and $2.60. The stalking Temple's Door, who was fifth last time in the Citation, paid $12.40 and $6.20 as a 20-1 shot. The exacta paid $65.20. The show price on Chosen Miracle, who was a little short in his first try at nine furlongs, was $3.20.