Medaglia d'Oro and jockey Jerry Bailey took command of Saturday's $400,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita early and never let up, drawing off to a huge victory in the 1 1/8-mile test for 4-year-olds.
The runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), making his first start since then, encountered no difficulty from his five foes to win by seven lengths over runner-up Olmodavor, who rallied late to tag Tracemark out of the place spot by 1/2 length. The final time was 1:48.04.
The Kentucky-bred son of El Prado, owned by Edmund A. Gann and trained by Bobby Frankel, was no surprise to the Santa Anita crowd that sent him off as the 2-5 favorite.
Breaking from the outside, Bailey hustled Medaglia d'Oro to the front as they crossed under the finish wire for the first time and settled the dark bay or brown colt on the rail with a length advantage heading into the clubhouse turn.
From there, the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers (gr. I) winner last year dictated the pace in fractons of :22.91 for the opening quarter-mile, :45.96 for the half, 1:09.98 for six furlongs and 1:34.87 for the mile. By the time Medaglia d'Oro hit the stretch, Tracemark was losing ground and there was no one in position to challenge. He closed things out gearing down for Bailey.
"I thought he had improved, but you never know until you run him," said Frankel. The three-time Eclipse award-winning trainer said he would like to take Medaglia d'Oro to Dubai for the World Cup in March, but noting the unstable conditions in that region of the world, added, "Who knows how that's going to work out. If not there, then the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I)."
Medaglia d'Oro was a little known colt with just a maiden win to his credit last March when he was purchased privately by Gann and won the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita to launch him into national prominence. He was second in the Wood (gr. I) following the San Felipe, leading to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). After a dismal eighth-place showing in the Preakness (gr. I), he rebounded with a narrow loss to Sarava in the Belmont (gr. I), setting the stage for an outstanding summer that included the Jim Dandy and Travers victories.
Overall, Medaglia d'Oro sports five wins and four seconds in 11 career races. The winner's share of the Strub, $240,000, improved his career bankroll to more than $2.5 million.
The winner paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. Olmodavor, ridden by Alex Solis, returned $3.20 and $21.0. Tracemark, with Kent Desormeaux in the irons, paid $2.10 to show. The $2 exacta was $8.60.