Irish Prize en route to victory in the San Marcos.

Irish Prize en route to victory in the San Marcos.

AP/Benoit photos

Irish Prize Wins Another Close One in San Marcos

From Santa Anita Park
Irish Prize won another photo finish at Santa Anita Park on Monday, prevailing by a nose over long shot Continental Red in the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes (gr. II) on the turf.

Ridden by Gary Stevens at high weight of 122 pounds--the third win of the day for Stevens--Irish Prize ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.27 on a firm course and paid $6.60, $3.60 and $3.

It was the second stakes win of the meeting for Irish Prize, who won the Dec. 30 San Gabriel Handicap by a head over Sligo Bay. Of his six stakes victories over the last two years, Irish Prize has won by a nose twice, a neck twice, a head and a half-length.

A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred by Irish River, Irish Prize has won 10 of 25 overall, and the $90,000 San Marcos winner's share increased his earnings to $1,212,353. He is trained by Neil Drysdale for Sheik Maktoum Al Maktoum, whose Gainsborough Farm bred the gelding.

Continental Red accelerated powerfully off the last turn, overtook Takarian for the lead, continued gamely to the wire and just missed. The runner-up returned $7.20 and $4.40.

Cagney finished well to take third place, paying $4.40 to show, and was followed under the wire by Takarian, even-money betting favorite Lord Flasheart and Loving. Kerrygold and Blue Steller were scratched earlier in the day.

Stevens said Irish Prize is an old pro who knows how to win the close ones.

"He just gives me a ton of confidence," Stevens said. "He's got this aura about him."

"Whew, that's as close as you can cut it," Drysdale said. "Honestly, 10 yards from the wire, I didn't think he was going to get there. This horse really reaches. He has a tremendous desire to win. It was nice to see him relax so well. That's what Gary was saying the other day after going nine (furlongs), that he relaxes so well now. He didn't think the extra furlong would be a problem."

(Chart, Equibase)