Bourbon Bay powers home in the San Luis Rey.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Bourbon Bay powers home in the San Luis Rey.
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Bourbon Bay Crests in San Luis Rey Handicap

Odds-on choice solidifies grip on region's turf division with 2 1/2-length win.

Odds-on choice Bourbon Bay solidified his hold on the distance turf handicap division in Southern California when he rolled to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita March 20.

With Rafael Bejarano at the controls, Bourbon Bay was just where he likes to be, pressuring the pacesetter Quasicobra before sweeping past approaching the quarter-pole. There was no catching the 4-year-old son of Sligo Bay  in the lane as he came home under steady handling in a solid time of 2:24.08 for the 1 1/2-mile distance over firm ground.

Coupled with his 4 1/4-length triumph in the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) one month ago, Bourbon Bay stands atop the region's turf division heading into the meet-closing 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IIT) April 18.

Trainer Neil Drysdale collected his fourth San Luis Rey victory, this time for owners David and Jill Heerensberger.

Drysdale said he wasn't concerned when Bourbon Bay went to the front early.

“Well, I think (Bourbon Bay) had to, because otherwise, they were going to come at him," he said. "He had no option. I think he’s getting the hang of it. I thought he settled better today than he did the other day (in the San Luis Obispo Handicap).”

The late-running Romp rallied for second at odds of 50-1, edging Argentina-bred Sudden War by a head. The Drysdale-trained Obrigado finished fourth.

Bourbon Bay is three-for-four at Santa Anita, all of his victories coming in the current meet and all at the 12-furlong distance.

Quasicobra opened up by 2 1/2 lengths over Bourbon Bay while clicking off a swift opening half-mile in :46. The lead dwindled quickly, however, soon after the pacesetter covered the mile in 1:36.30. Bourbon Bay, who bobbled at the start, always looked like a winner while stalking the leader, cruising to the front while rounding the final turn.

Bourbon Bay kicked clear in the lane, drifting out under a left-handed crack of the whip and holding sway under a long hold from Bejarano late. Romp, racing in ninth for Chantal Sutherland, progressed along the inside to gain the runner-up slot over Sudden War and Alex Solis.

“I had to use a little bit of him to make sure I got the break right and get the perfect position at the first turn," Bejarano said. "I felt a little pressure from the horse next to me on the inside, but my horse was relaxed. We were going a little faster than the last time (In the San Luis Obispo) but I still had a lot of horse at the end. This horse is getting through every time he runs, and he is getting better every time he runs. I’m so happy he won again.”

The winner earned $90,000 for his fourth win in 12 starts and has now banked $299,424. Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, the bay gelding is out of Coral Necklace, by Conquistador Cielo.

The 120-pound high weight in the field of 10, Bourbon Bay went off at odds of 9-10 and paid $3.80, $3.20, and $2.60. The Argentina-bred Romp, fourth in the San Luis Obispo last time for trainer Kristin Mulhall, returned $20.40 and $10.40 while completing a $119 exacta. Third in the San Luis Obispo after setting the pace, Sudden War tried stalking tactics this time and finished third again, paying $5.20 to show.

It was 1 1/2 lengths to Obrigado, followed by Unusual Suspect, Dynamic Range, Lease of Life, Unusual Smoke, High Court Drama, and Quasicobra.