O'Neill's 'Appointment Wins Sensational Star

(from Santa Anita report)
Santa Anita's leading trainer Doug O'Neill won his seventh stakes of the meeting Sunday when Grand Appointment took the $137,875 Sensational Star Handicap for older horses bred in California.

In a race that was moved from the hillside turf course to a sloppy main track, jockey Patrick Valenzuela lay third with Grand Appointment in the early stages, then took the lead on the far outside at the top of the stretch. The horse drifted out but held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths, covering 6 ½ furlongs on a wet fast track in 1:14.56. Red Warrior made a late charge to pass Excessivepleasure and finish second.

It was O'Neill's second win of the day and his 31st of the meeting, which puts him 13 races clear of his nearest competitor for the training title. With the meet just past the halfway point, O'Neill is on a pace to shatter the record of 47 wins held by Bob Baffert and Gary Jones. His seven stakes victories also lead all trainers.

Grand Appointment carried 117 pounds and paid $11.40, $5.20 and $4. Red Warrior, ridden by Garrett Gomez at 119, paid $3.60 and $2.80. Excessivepleasure, also trained by O'Neill, paid $4.20 under Jon Court at 119.

It was the sixth win in 17 starts and the third straight for Grand Appointment, a 7-year-old by Unbridled owned by O'Neill and Pablo Suarez, who claimed him for $32,000 out of his last race.

Grand Appointment earned $82,725, pushing his lifetime total to $295,941.

Bilo, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

(Chart, Equibase)

In a companion feature, the $75,000 Daytona Handicap, Royal Place beat Forest Grove by a length. Ridden by Gomez at 115 pounds and trained by Rafael Becerra, Royal Place covered 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.03 and paid $13.20 and $6.40. Forest Grove paid $6.

Six horses scratched when the race was transferred from the downhill turf course to the main track, leaving five to start but just four betting interests.

(Chart, Equibase)