Ever a Friend romps in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.<br><a target="blank" href="http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/photo-store?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fpictopia.com%2Fperl%2Fgal%3Fprovider_id%3D368%26ptp_photo_id%3D3724260%26ref%3Dstory">Order This Photo</a>

Ever a Friend romps in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
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Mitchell Finds a Friend in Kilroe Mile

Mike Mitchell wins a grade I race with Ever a Friend, a horse he claimed for $62,500.

Claiming king Mike Mitchell performed his magic once again at Santa Anita March 1, winning the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) (VIDEO) with Ever a Friend, a horse he picked up for $62,500 at Hollywood Park in December.

Mitchell has a nearly endless string of claiming horses that he turned into stakes champions, and so it is with Ever a Friend, a 5-year-old gray gelding making his first graded start. The Kentucky-bred Crafty Friend offspring was taken off Christophe Clement Dec. 6 and won his only start for Mitchell since then, the Impressive Luck Handicap on the hillside turf course Dec. 31. Ever a Friend had only one previous start at a mile on grass, finishing seventh in an allowance race at Belmont Park in September 2006.

Ridden superbly by Tyler Baze, Ever a Friend, off at 9-1, always looked like the winner in the Kilroe. He pressed solid pacesetter Storm Military on the outside for three-quarters of a mile, hit the front coming into the stretch and kicked clear under encouragement in the home stretch. He drifted a bit late while winning by 3 3/4 lengths in a smart 1:33.37 on a firm course.

"He’s been training lights out and Mike’s done a great job with him," Baze said. "At the top of the lane when he kicked like he did, it was just awesome. It’s a feeling you can’t describe. This is just really special.”

Mitchell said the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) on May 26 at Hollywood Park and the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) in October are the main goals for Ever a Friend.

“As I trained him, he just seemed like he wanted to run long," Mitchell said. "I asked Tyler and he thought he could run all day. I passed up a 6 1/2 (furlong race on grass), because I knew he could do that, but the more I trained him, the more I knew he could do two turns.

"I said before the race I thought this was the best claim I ever made," Mitchell added.

Artiste Royal, the 119-pound high weight ridden by Rafael Bejarano, closed from last to nail second by a neck over 11-10 choice War Monger and Kent Desormeaux. War Monger finished a neck in front of Out of Control and Storm Military, the Bobby Frankel trained stablemates who dead-heated for fourth. Mr Napper Tandy trailed a field reduced to six by the scratch of Willow O Wisp.

Fractions were :23.47, :47.58 and 1:10.70.

Ever a Friend earned $180,000 for his fifth lifetime win in 18 starts, nearly doubling his career bankroll to $378,668. The winning owners are Daniel Capen and Jeff and Steve Ustin. Carrying 113 pounds to victory, the second-longest shot on the board paid $20.60, $10 and $5.20, topping a $2 exacta worth $164.40.

The Irish-bred Artiste Royal, a grade I winner on the Santa Anita turf last fall, returned $7 and $4.20 in his first start since running eighth in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) Nov. 25 for trainer Neil Drysdale.

War Monger, favored off his win in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26 for trainer Bill Mott, was $2.60 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)