Making the first start of his career on the grass, the pacesetting Badge of Silver sped away from his rivals in the stretch to register a mild upset for trainer Bobby Frankel in the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf at stormy Santa Anita Park Sunday.
Sarah and Ken Ramsey's 6-year-old son of Silver Deputy
probably won the race in the opening three-quarters of a mile when he clicked off easy fractions of :23 2/5, :49 2/5 and 1:14 for jockey Patrick Valenzuela.
Valenzuela kept after Badge of Silver through the lane as they pulled away from the pack and they went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over favored Atlando in a time of 1:50 for the 1 1/8-mile distance on a course listed as "good." It was the only race of the day on the Santa Anita turf, which has been pelted consistently by rain for the past two days.
"Bobby's the greatest, what can I say," Valenzuela said. "From dirt to turf? He ran a great race. You saw him kick. Bobby had him plenty ready and he knew his action was good on the turf."
The winner carried the co-high weight of 118 pounds.
Badge of Silver had won six of 13 lifetime races on the main track but had never tried the turf before Sunday. The dark bay was reportedly headed for retirement after the San Gabriel. He had raced just once since a sixth-place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) June 18, that coming in an eighth-place showing as the favorite in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Nov. 26.
"We'll see how he comes out of this race," said Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's assistant, when asked about the Ramseys' plans for Badge of Silver. "You know, he ran so good today. We'll just have to see."
With the winner's share of $90,000, Badge of Silver increased his career earnings to $770,892.
Badge of Silver ($10.60, $5.20 and $3.60), the third choice in the field of nine, benefited from the scratch of Whilly, a multiple grade II winner who would have been on the lead as well.
Instead, Hendrix, ridden by Corey Nakatani, dueled early with Badge of Silver before settling into second while tracking the leader into the stretch. But as Badge of Silver began to draw away, Atlando, ridden by Martin Pedroza, and Toasted took up a futile chase.
The Irish-bred Atlando, the 5-2 choice with entry mate Don Incauto, was closing ground along the inside for Martin Pedroza but never threatened as they approached the wire. Atlando ($3.80, $2.60) was coming off a win in the Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct.
Toasted ($3.80), ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., turned in an encouraging performance in his first outing since September for trainer Laura de Seroux.
Estavan finished fourth, folllowed by Don Incauto, Hendrix Choctaw Nation, Rhythm Mad and Burning Sun, another Frankel trainee who faded after vying with the leaders into the stretch.
The late-running Choctaw Nation, a multiple graded stakes winner on dirt was like Badge of Silver making his first on the grass. The 3-1 second choice in the betting was never a factor under Victor Espinoza.