King's Drama (left) holds off fast-closing T.H. Approval to win the San Luis Rey Handicap, Saturday at Santa Anita.

King's Drama (left) holds off fast-closing T.H. Approval to win the San Luis Rey Handicap, Saturday at Santa Anita.


King's Drama Closes Gap in Frankel Resume

(from Santa Anita report)
Trainer Bobby Frankel, who has left few loopholes in his Hall of Fame career, closed one on Saturday at Santa Anita when his King's Drama won the $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT).

The Irish-bred 6-year-old gelding's one-length victory over T.H. Approval eliminated the San Luis Rey as the only graded turf race at Santa Anita that the 64-year-old Frankel had never won.

King's Drama, part of Gary Tanaka's two-horse entry that went off at odds of 3-5, ran the 1 ½ miles on firm turf in 2:26 2/5. Jon Court rode the big bay, who went over the $1 million mark in career earnings, after scheduled rider Patrick Valenzuela was excused due to a pinched nerve in his shoulder.

A son of King's Theatre, the grade I winning King's Drama tracked the early leaders while racing in third and took control after going wide around the far turn. He quelled the late rally by second choice T.H. Approval with Alex Solis aboard. Pacesetter Wild Buddy, a 35-1 longshot handled by Michael Baze, finished third, another length behind and one-half length ahead of Atlando in the field of seven.

"I could hear (track announcer) Trevor Denman calling T. H. Approval (closing in) in the stretch," Court said afterward, "so I kept knuckling down, switched sticks, and kept to the task."

The win by King's Drama vindicated a loss to Tanaka's Atlando - when third in the Feb. 26 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) following a three-month layoff - and elevated him to millionaire status. The winning purse ran the 6-year-old's earnings to $1,007,916 from a 9-6-6 record in 28 lifetime starts. King's Drama won for the first time since taking the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct in November. He also captured Saratoga's Sword Dancer last year during a campaign in which he banked $525,137.

King's Drama, who carried high weight of 121 pounds, paid $3.20, $2.20, and $2.10. T.H. Approval, the winner of last year's San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT), paid $2.80 and $2.10. The show payoff on Wild Buddy was $2.10.

Atlando finished fourth, followed by Eastern Sand, One Off, and Golden Rahy.

There was a minus show pool of $31,870 with $199,591 of the $222,278 wagered to show placed on the winning entry.

Recalling the third-place finish by King's Drama in the San Luis Obispo, Frankel said, "They went too fast last time. The fractions were a lot better this time."

Early leader Wild Buddy passed the half-mile mark in 48.37 and the six furlongs in 1:12.65 while building a 10-length lead after a 1:37.96 opening mile.

"I wanted to keep an eye on Wild Buddy so he didn't steal away," Court said. "At the same time, you want to keep your horse comfortable and relaxed, and that's what he did today."

It was the second San Luis Rey victory for Tanaka, who owned 1999 winner Single Empire in partnership with Robert Sangster.

Frankel's stakes victory was his seventh of the current meet and 120th at Santa Anita, where he stands second to the late Charlie Whittingham, who won 204.

(Chart, Equibase)