The Pamplemousse went from maiden winner to graded stakes winner Jan. 17 at Santa Anita Park, breaking to an early lead and never looking back for an impressive two-length victory in the $100,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds on the Pro-Ride surface.
Under the handling of Alex Solis, The Pamplemousse broke sharply from the inside post and outraced Brother Keith to the front. The son of Kafwain had things his own way after Brother Keith was rank and steadied on the first turn by Garret Gomez. The Pamplemousse led pace stalker Fiddlers Afleet comfortably after a quarter in :23.04 and a half-mile in :45.67.
Ryehill Dreamer and 3-5 favorite Square Eddie gained ground while rounding the far turn and appeared poised to make a serious run at the leader, but The Pamplemousse found more at the top of the lane and extended his advantage.
The final time in the one-mile event was 1:35.31.
“I’m speechless, I really am,” said Solis, whose son Alex Solis Jr. is a part owner in the horse. “This horse has such a high cruising speed, I thought I was going :24, :48 (but) it feels like he’s walking. He does everything so effortlessly. He was so impressive; when the other horses came to him, he didn’t see them, he heard them and he just took off.
“I better start going to church and hope he stays sound. My son buying the horse makes it even more special.”
Square Eddie, the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) runner-up, settled for second under Rafael Bejarano. Ryehill Dreamer was 2 3/4 lengths back in third in the scratched-filled San Rafael, which went to post with only five horses. Papa Clem, Charlie’s Moment and Feisty Suances were all scratches.
The Pamplemousse was soundly beaten in the first two races of his career, but found his form when breaking his maiden last out at Hollywood Park. The gray/roan colt won the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track contest by 2 3/4 lengths Dec. 14 and had a series of sharp works entering the San Rafael.
Winning trainer Julio Canani was very pleased with his budding star, who vaulted himself onto the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail.
“I was concerned when I saw the early fractions, but he was training unbelievable,” Canani said. “He’s developing mentally and physically. He’s awkward because he’s growing and growing. He’s huge, but he’s got a great mind, and I’ve got no problems with him. He re-broke in the stretch when Square Eddie came to him, but he’s much better when he follows somebody.
“I’ll take my time. If I run him in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I, April 4), he may run one more time before that.”
Owned by Chuck Winner and David Bienstock of Encino, William and Jeffrey Strauss, Tom Lenner, Jeff Davenport, Tom Murray, Jess Ravich and Solis Jr., The Pamplemousse, who was named for the Strauss' popular Pamplemousse Grill next to Del Mar. The colt was bought for $150,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. 2008 selected sale of 2-year-old in training. He was bred by Clarkland Farm in Kentucky and is out of the Rubiano mare Comfort Zone.
The winner paid $7.20, $3, and $2.20 as the second choice. The $2 exacta (1-6) returned $11.60.
Square Eddie, who came three-wide into the stretch and had every opportunity to run down the winner, seemed to be affected by his lengthy layoff. The son of Smart Strike had not raced since the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup.
“He should definitely move forward off this,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “He got tired. It was his first race in almost three months. Obviously, we wanted to win, but the main thing is for him to come out of this good and go in the right direction.”
O’Neill indicated that Square Eddie might be headed to Fair Grounds to run on natural dirt.
Brother Keith, trained by Bobby Frankel, made a mild rally to edge Fiddlers Afleet for fourth.