The longest shot in a six-horse field, Sterwins was sent off at odds of 13-1. The 5-year-old son of Runaway Groom earned his first career graded stakes and sixth win in 17 lifetime starts for trainer Malcolm Pierce. Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, the gray gelding covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.53.
Go Between, who was coming off a second-place finish in the March 1 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), settled for another runner-up performance while going off at odds of 1-2. The son of Point Given was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Sir Whimsy. Leonnatus Anteas finished fourth.
An Ontario-bred, Sterwins was in no hurry at the outset of the Ben Ali, settling into last while near the fence. Under John Velazquez, It’s a Bird sprinted to the early lead, taking the field through three-quarters in :24.23. :48.30 and 1:11.93. Leonnatus Anteas and Mayan King stalked the pace.
Sterwins, still in last through six furlongs, began his winning three-wide move around the second turn. Coming four-wide out of the turn, Sterwins grabbed the lead at the top of the lane and sprinted clear for a convincing score.
“He’s one of those horses that always seems to make a nice run at the end, thanks to Malcolm,” said Bridgmohan, who rode Sterwins for the first time. “He told me to get him to the outside and when I go to make that move, and it made all the difference in the world.”
Out of the Wild Again mare Sweet Vale, Sterwins was making his first start off turf since December of 2006, a span of eight starts.
“He’s always trained good over Polytrack,” Pierce said. “We were just waiting for one of those turf races to get rained off one day, but it just never happened. We ended up entering him here and taking a shot.
“(Bridgmohan) did the right thing. He got him to the outside of those horses, and (Sterwins) really performed for him.”
The winner paid $28.80, $7.20 and $4. The exacta (1-2) returned $62.60, while the $1 trifecta (1-2-5) netted $88.80.
Sterwins’ last win came in his final start as a 4-year-old, when he won the Dec. 15 Buddy Dilberto Memorial Handicap on the Fair Grounds turf.
Crossword was scratched.