Favored Geronimo, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, swooped late to get the nod over King Robyn and Jungle Prince Saturday in the $100,000 Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita hillside turf course Saturday at the Oak Tree meeting.
A Breeders' Cup day on-track crowd of 17,791 was on hand to see an exciting finish in the Morvich.
Geronimo surged to the front in the final stride to win by a head over King Robyn. With Martin Pedroza aboard, King Robyn, the second choice in the field of eight, was seeking his second win in the Morvich. A nose separated the second and third-place finisher, Jungle Prince and Felipe Martinez, with Courageous King a head farther back in fourth. The final time for the about 6 1/2-furlong distance was 1:12.
A 6-year-old Chilean-bred gelded son of Gold Tribute, Geronimo was dead last in the field of eight on the turn for home. After angling in as the field left the hill, Desormeaux swung Geronimo out for the stretch drive and the chestnut responded to left-hand urging while rallying four wide.
"At the head of the lane, I didn't think I was going to get up in time," Desormeaux said. "But this horse showed me the grit and determination I had seen in the morning, and he finally put it to use in the afternoon. I had planned on being closer early on, but the pace was generous and I just elected to set back."
King Robyn, who prompted a sizzling pace set by stablemate Mighty Beau (:21 1/5, :42 2/5), gained a short lead in the stretch and just barely failed to last while challenged in the final sixteenth on either side by Geronimo and Jungle Prince.
John Sadler trains Geronimo for owners Gary and Cecil Barber, who claimed him for $80,000 in February. Geronimo ran third in last year's Morvich, a race won by the 5-year-old King Robyn in 2003.
"I was kind of cussing Desormeaux out down the hill because he was so far back, but he never gave up and got up in the last stride," said Sadler's assistant, Larry Benavidez.
The consistently game Geronimo won for the second time in 10 starts in 2005 while recording five runner-up finishes this year. He sports a lifetime record of 11-10-5 in 36 tries and earnings of $443,450. Geronimo ran second, beaten by a nose, in the Blue Jay Way Stakes on the same Santa Anita turf course in his last start Oct. 1. The victory ended a seven-race losing streak.
Geronimo paid $6.40, $3.20 and $2.40. King Robyn, making his second start following a layoff of 16 months for trainer Jeff Mullins, returned $3.80 and $3. Jungle Prince was $4.60 to show.
After Courageous King came Mighty Beau, Royal Place, Tsigane and Shadow of Illinois.