Areyoutalkintome was under pressure all the way in the $110,500 El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on a soupy Santa Anita Park main track, but he refused to give way and pulled off under Tyler Baze in the closing stage to win handily Sunday.
The California-bred 4-year-old Smokester gelding beat a solid field of older sprinters for his first graded stakes victory, completing the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02 2/5 on a track labled "wet fast."
Winning trainer Doug O'Neill won a career-best four races on the Santa Anita card Sunday – with four different jockeys – and now leads the meet standings with eight victories through the first seven days. O'Neil is only the seventh trainer to win four races in one day at the winter/spring meet, and the first since Mike Mitchell accomplished the feat on Jan. 13, 1995.
Areyoutalkintome forced the issue from between horses as Woke Up Dreamin, leading on the inside, and 8-year-old Hombre Rapido, working hard on the outside to stay with them, sped through blistering fractions or :21 1/5, :43 4/5 and :56 over slick going. In the final sixteenth, Baze asked for more and Areyoutalkintome edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Hombre Rapido, ridden by David Flores.
Baze said he knew Areyoutalkintome would love the mud.
"Doug said he could be a little lazy so get him out of there, but he shot out of there like a rocket, and I just kept him comfortable," Baze said. "It didn't bother him that he was head-and-head all the way. I thought it would.
"He never switched leads. I tried him once, and he didn't do it so I just left him alone on the wrong lead, and when I asked him he just cut. I could feel him drop and go."
Woke Up Dreamin, Rene Douglas aboard, held on for third, another 1 1/2 lengths behind. Revello, part of a Ted West-trained entry with Bluesthestandard, hung in the stretch and finished fourth in the nine-horse field.
Grade II winner McCann's Mojave, making his first start since May 1, was sent off as the 9-5 favorite and was not a factor for Jose Valdivia Jr., finishing fifth. McCann's Mojave and Bluesthestandard each carried high weight of 118 pounds, four more than Areyoutalkintome.
"He broke good, we had a good trip, but the track was slop," Valdivia said. "I know a horse has to run over it, but my horse just didn't care for it."
Don'tsellmeshort, Day Trader, Britt's Jules and Bluesthestandard followed.
Areyoutalkintome recovered from a fourth-place finish, beaten 6 1/2 lengths as the favorite, in the On Trust Handicap for Cal breds at Hollywood Park Nov. 13. He won four times in 11 starts – with five seconds – in 2004, including the Cal Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Oct. 16.
Career-wise, he has a 6-5-3 record in 15 tries with earnings of more than $349,292. O'Neill claimed the dark bay Dec.20, 2003 for $32,000 for owners Ron Manzani and Russell Sarno of Los Angeles.
O'Neill said the key was getting Areyoutalkintome into the race early.
"This is a horse that doesn't worry about what kind of track you throw at him and we were hoping some of the competition wouldn't run their best over it," O'Neill said. "It worried me a little bit that they were going so fast and he was in between horses but he just showed how much guts he's got."
The trainer said he would like to take a shot in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita Jan. 29.
John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery bred Areyoutalkintome, who is out of the Storm Bird mare Andrea Gail. He was a $10,000 Barretts' sale as a yearling in 2002.
In addition to Areyoultalkintome, O'Neill won the second with Passion for Words ($5.60), the fourth with Sienna's Lane ($5.20) and the ninth with Garland of Love ($14.60).
Areyoutalkintome paid $11.80, $5.20 and $4. Hombre Rapido returned $5 and $4 and was part of a $8.40 exacta. Wake Up Dreamin was $4 to show.