Fluke ran down stablemate Proudinsky in deep stretch to win in the $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap (gr. IIIT) by three-quarters of a length, giving trainer Humberto Ascanio the first two finishers over the Santa Anita turf Feb. 5.
Second in each of his three starts in 2010, Fluke tallied for the first time since winning the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) Nov. 27, 2009. It was also the first win for Ascanio, the late Bobby Frankel's former Southern California assistant, since runner-up Proudinsky captured the San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) in December 2009.
Ascanio, with 46 losses in a row, saddled six prior starters at the Santa Anita meet with two seconds and one third.
“Both horses have been running good, but not good enough to win," Ascanio said. "I didn’t think Proudinsky would be in front, but he was, and he ran good. I liked both of them. I thought either one could win. It’s been a rough go, but it’s over, so we’ll look forward to more wins.”
One of three grade I winners in the one-mile Thunder Road, Fluke received a masterful ride from Joe Talamo, who got the 6-year-old Brazilian-bred horse to settle off the leaders along the inside in fourth or fifth early. They angled out three wide leaving the far turn and took aim at the surprising pacesetter Proudinsky, gradually getting to the leader and inching away under urging in the final strides.
The winning time was a swift 1:33.77 for the mile over a firm course.
“We had a perfect trip," Talamo said. "I thought we’d be laying second, but it worked out better this way. This horse is better with a target. Sometimes when he gets to the lead too early he throws his ears up and loses focus. He was just perfect today.”
It was three-quarters of a length to third-place finisher Victor's Cry, ridden by Victor Espinoza. He edged Meteore by a neck.
Proudinsky, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, set a hot pace under pressure by Colgan's Chip, who gave way in the stretch after fractions of :22.95, :46.50 and 1:10.03.
"I didn’t want to be on the lead, but that’s where I ended up," Valenzuela said. "He was a little fresh today. He kicked when I asked him, but he just couldn’t outrun his stablemate. I hope next time I beat him.”
Both horses are likely candidates for the March 5 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT).
The consistent Fluke won for the second time in five starts over the Santa Anita turf with two seconds. He has three wins and four seconds in nine tries at the distance.
Patricia Bozano owns Fluke, a dark bay/brown son of Wild Event out of Uff-Uff, by De Quest, and bred by Haras Doce Vale.
Second in his most recent start, a 1 1/16-mile allowance test at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27, Fluke's overall mark now stands 6-6-0 in 15 races with earnings of $457,948.
Under 120 pounds, Fluke was the second choice and paid $8.60, $3.60 and $2.40, topping a $30.20 exacta. Proudinsky, now second in three consecutive races since his San Gabriel victory, returned $4 and $3. Victor's Cry, winner of the 2010 Citation Handicap in his prior start Nov. 27 was $3.60 to show.
Meteor was followed by Blue Chagall, Dakota Phone, Colgan's Chip, Skyrush and Jazzman's Dance.