Liberian Freighter made everyone wait, but once he got out of the starting gate he never looked back, leading all the way to win the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) by a half-length over Blue Chagall at Santa Anita April 9 (VIDEO).
It was the first win for the Neil Drysdale-trained Liberian Freighter since he posted a 22-1 upset in the Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park last October. Liberian Freighter went off at 9-1 odds in the Arcadia.
Martin Garcia rode the 6-year-old California-bred Bertrando gelding to victory for owners Shawn Dugan (Drysdale's wife), the estate of Edward Nahem, and Charles Winner. Nahem's King Edward Racing Stable bred Liberian Freighter, who is out of Anachristina, by Slewpy.
Liberian Freighter faded badly to finish eighth in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita March 5, which was his first start in more than three months.
Prior to the Arcadia, Liberian Freighter balked at the gap leading from the main track to the turf, holding up the start for a couple of minutes.
"When you pull against this horse, he just does the opposite," Drysdale said in explaining Liberian Freighter's reluctance to load. "When you pull on him he goes backwards."
But once in the gate, the dark bay broke sharply and Garcia slowed the pace right down while maintaining a comfortable advantage over Norvsky and Blue Chagall. Fractions for the opening six furlongs were slow -- :23.50, :47.41, and 1:10.69.
As the field made its way into the stretch, the French-bred Blue Chagall picked up the chase in second as Norvsky fell back. Liberian Freighter, still a clear leader at mid-stretch, was getting weary in the final sixteenth but under urging from Garcia he had enough to hold off Blue Chagall and Garrett Gomez. The final time was 1:34.41 for the mile over firm going.
"We were the only speed in the race today, so when I broke I let him run out of there on his own him and let him settle into stride," Garcia said. "When I asked him to run, he took off. I thought he beat a really good field today."
Blue Chagall held second by a diminishing neck over the onrushing Jeranimo and Rafael Bejarano, with Norvsky finishing fourth. Caracortado, the 4-5 choice in the field of seven, ran fifth, followed by Run It and Leroy's Dynameaux.
"The pace was killing him," jockey Joe Talamo said of Caracortado. "I mean they went so slow up front and that definitely didn't help. He flew the last quarter."
Liberian Freighter was the co-top weight with Jeranimo at 123 pounds, carrying five more than Caracortado. He improved his career mark to 9-2-6 in 26 starts while earning $673,740. The Arcadia win was worth $90,000.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Liberian Freighter paid $20.40, $10, and $8. Blue Chagall returned $10.20 and $7.40 and rounded out a $159.60 exacta. Jeranimo, a close third last time out in the Kilroe, was $3.80 to show.