Spellbinder and jockey Martin Pedroza  win the San Antonio Handicap, Sunday at Santa Anita.

Spellbinder and jockey Martin Pedroza win the San Antonio Handicap, Sunday at Santa Anita.

Benoit Photo

Spellbinder Weaves Magic in San Antonio Win

(from Santa Anita report)
Tough luck Spellbinder gained his first graded stakes victory Sunday when he defeated With Distinction by three-quarters of a length in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.

Spellbinder was beaten by less than a length when third in each of his two previous graded stakes tries, but the 5-year-old bay gradually took control in mid-stretch to get home in 1:48.84 under jockey Martin Pedroza.

The 68th running of the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio unfolded as a match race between the first two finishers. Spellbinder stalked With Distinction on the outside through fractions of :22 4/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 3/5.

Wilko, winless since registering a 28-1 upset in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), finished stoutly when getting free from behind horses in the stretch to take third, a head behind With Distinction and jockey Javier Santiago.

Spellbinder's victory was the seventh for trainer Richard Mandella in the San Antonio to move him one win ahead of the legendary Charlie Whittingham.

The mild upset by the third choice in the wagering was consistent with other longshot winners during the afternoon that led to a double Pick Six carryover of $751,395. Racing at Santa Anita resumes on Wednesday.

Buckland Manor, favored at 5-2 in the San Antonio, was fitted with blinkers and a new jockey, Victor Espinoza, in an attempt to end a five-race losing streak, but never was a threat while fading to last in the field of eight.

One of two entrants trained by Mandella, Spellbinder paid $10.60, $6 and $4.40. The prices on With Distinction were $10.80 and $6.80. Wilko, ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, returned $4.60 to show. Turnbolt, Mandella's other runner, finished sixth.

"He showed a lot of courage through the lane," Mandella said of the winner. "He's turned into a real racehorse."

"He's a gutsy horse for as little as he is," Pedroza said. "He's built like a quarter horse, and he keeps getting better and better."

The fifth win of Spellbinder's career rewarded owners Jerry and Ann Moss to the tune of $150,000. His earnings jumped to $348,129 from an overall record of 5-1-4 in 18 starts.

Craig Dollase, who trains Wilko, rued his 4-year-old's traffic problems when blocked in the stretch. "It was like last year's Santa Anita Derby all over again," he said. "He got beat about the same distance. At least, he showed he's back, and that he's legit."

Espinoza didn't know what to make of Buckland Manor's performance. "For some reason he was not in the race today," Espinoza said. "He never picked up the bridle. I was finished at the three-eighths pole. He had blinkers on today, and maybe they affected him."

(Chart, Equibase)