Proudinsky (middle, green and white silks) gets his nose in front of El Caballo and Nownownow to win the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap.

Proudinsky (middle, green and white silks) gets his nose in front of El Caballo and Nownownow to win the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap.

Lynn Roberts

Proudinsky Busts Buttons in Muniz Repeat

The Bobby Frankel-trained German-bred wins by a nose over El Caballo and Nownownow.

Proudinsky  became a repeat winner of the $500,000 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) by a nose over El Caballo and Nownownow in a terrific finish at rainy Fair Grounds March 14.

Under steady pressure from jockey Victor Espinoza, the stalking Proudinsky got to the wire a nose in front of the pacesetting El Caballo, with the closer Nownownow the third nose on the line. The 1 1/8-mile event, contested on a turf course rated 'good,' was completed in 1:50.94.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, the German-bred Proudinsky went over the $1 million mark in career earnings in his first start of 2009 while making it back-to-back stakes wins for owner Johanna Louise Glen-Teven. The 6-year-old son of Silvano won the San Gabriel Handicap (gr.IIT) over the Santa Anita grass course on Dec. 20. 

Proudinsky had to overcome the far outside post in the 14-horse Muniz field, Espinoza angling him over so that he was three paths wide on the first turn while racing in fifth. El Caballo, ridden by Julien Leparoux, set the pace off the rail (:24.47, :49.70 and 1:14.39) and maintained a one-length advantage over the advancing Proudinsky to the eighth pole, but could not hold off the winner in the final stride.

Nownownow, after bobbling at the break under Edgar Prado, rallied five wide through the lane to just miss.

Soldier's Dancer, the 2-1 favorite with Rafael Bejarano, finished three-quarters of a length behind in fourth after rallying from last in the big field.

Proudinsky, who won last year's Muniz by one length over French Beret, improved his career mark to 6-4-1 in 18 starts with earnings of $1,090,377. The Muniz win was worth $300,000.

“I thought I had a great shot,” Espinoza said. “I was a little concerned with the post position, but I thought if I could save ground, I would have the best horse.”

Bred by Dr. R. Wilhelms, Proudinsky is out of the German mare Proudeyes, by Dashing Blade.

Sent off as the second choice, Proudinsky paid $8.80, $5.80 and $4 while topping a $2 exacta worth $221.20. El Caballo, in his stakes debut for trainer Ralph Nicks, returned $11.80 and $9. Nownownow, winner of the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride Jan. 17 for trainer Patrick Biancone, was $5.80 to show.

Soldier's Dancer was followed by Brass Hat, Demarcation, Wesley, Windward Islands, Golden Yank, Sir Whimsey, Transduction Gold, My Happiness, French Beret and Corrupt.

In the final stakes race of the day, the $125,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes for sprinters, Savorthetime Stables’ Sok Sok overtook Garifine in the final yards for his third career Fair Grounds stakes win.

Sok Sok ($8.60), ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan for trainer Steve Asmussen, won the Thanksgiving Handicap earlier this meet and the 2007 Sugar Bowl Stakes as a 2-year-old. He covered the six furlongs of the Kenner in 1:09.79.