Gary Stevens guides Stanley Park to victory in the San Luis Rey.

Gary Stevens guides Stanley Park to victory in the San Luis Rey.

Benoit photo

Stanley Park Upsets Meteor Storm in San Luis Rey

Edited from track reports
Stanley Park swept past defending champion Meteor Storm in the final furlong and notched a one-length victory in the grade II, $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap on Easter Sunday at Santa Anita Park.

Ridden by Gary Stevens at 116 pounds, Stanley Park covered the marathon distance of 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:24.45 and paid $16.60, $6.00 and $4.00. John Shirreffs is the trainer for Jerry and Ann Moss of Beverly Hills.

Meteor Storm, the 3-2 betting favorite ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. at 118 pounds, took the lead on the last turn and appeared in good shape to win a second straight San Luis Rey. But Stanley Park, who began a sustained rally on the backstretch, quickly came to engage Meteor Storm, gained the lead past mid-stretch and drew clear.

Meteor Storm paid $3.40 and $2.80. It was a half-length back to Epicentre, Rene Douglas riding at 115 pounds, and a $4.80 show payoff. Star Over the Bay, the 9-5 second choice, set the pace to the head of the stretch before tiring and finishing fifth.

A 5-year-old son of Swain bred in Kentucky by Fred Seitz, Stanley Park has a 4-0-2 record from 11 starts. The $120,000 first prize bumped his earnings to $250,916. Stanley Park has two graded stakes wins; the first was in the Grade III Bay Meadows Derby in 2003.

Stevens, fourth all-time in Santa Anita stakes wins with 186, said Stanley Park was a pleasure to ride.

"I've been a big fan of his for a long time, and I've watched all of his races," Stevens said of Stanley Park. "We got in contention at the three-eighths (pole), and it was just a matter of running them down the last eighth of a mile."

Shirreffs, who has saddled three stakes winners at the meet, said Stanley Park might be pointed to the grade I, $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on April 16.

Earlier Sunday, trainer Doug O'Neill broke the record for most wins at a Santa Anita winter/spring meeting when Keystone Malibu ($2.40) prevailed in the first race under Corey Nakatani. It was the 48th victory of the meet for O'Neill, and he has 16 more racing days to add to the mark. Gary Jones (1975-76) and Bob Baffert (1997-98) shared the old record of 47 wins.

(Chart, Equibase)