Western Pride, drawing off to defeat Orientate in the San Fernando.

Western Pride, drawing off to defeat Orientate in the San Fernando.

AP/Benoit Photo

Santa Anita Race Report: Beaming With Pride

Published in the Jan. 19 issue of The Blood-Horse
No, he didn't mix it up with Monarchos and Point Given last spring. Some might say he took the easier road. But it's pretty hard to fault a horse who can lay claim to three Derbys and nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in earnings. Nevertheless, if Western Pride had any lingering naysayers, they got stopped in their tracks on Jan. 12 after the muscle-bound colt ran off with the $214,200 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.

"He's a great horse. He never got any credit for what he's done," said trainer Jim Chapman shortly after the race. "They'll know who he is now."

To racetrackers on the other side of the country, Western Pride is best known as the colt who carried the silks of Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur to victory in the West Virginia, Ohio (gr. II), and Calder (gr. III) Derbys. When the 50th San Fernando field entered the paddock, Southern Californians simply saw him as one of a panoply of 4-year-olds trying to make a name for himself.

The 1 1/16-mile San Fernando started out innocently enough, but after the first quarter had elapsed in just :22.28, the race was essentially in the books. Longshot Mo Mon stayed up close to the pace early on, but when Western Pride and Orientate hooked up leaving the clubhouse turn, it was a two-horse race.

"I went to let my horse settle turning into the backside, and they opened up on us," said Gary Stevens, who rode Canadian newcomer Fancy As. "Man, we were all just riding trying to keep the distance we had. They kept widening on us."

Western Pride and Orientate knocked off a half in a serious :44.86, and when they hit the three-eighths pole in 1:08.80, Western Pride stuck his head in front for good.

"I thought we were rolling, but I didn't think we went eight and change," winning rider Garrett Gomez later said.

Orientate didn't back down, however. The son of Mt. Livermore hung tough till deep stretch, when Western Pride finally put him away to win by a length in 1:41.30. Fancy As came on for third, three lengths farther back. Momentum, the 11-10 favorite, ran fifth. And by Chapman's assessment, Western Pride was just warming up.

"He wasn't even primed for this," said the trainer, figuring the son of Way West was only about 75% sharp for the San Fernando. "This was just to get ready for the Strub."

Look for most of the cast to reassemble for the $400,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 2.

All's Well
And to think they thought she was done. Tout Charmant showed everyone there's still some fire left in those 6-year-old legs on Jan. 13, dusting a strong field in the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT).

Once a standout grass filly, Tout Charmant fell upon rough times in 2001, a year beset by a summertime bout of colic and a trio of uninspiring performances. Her interest in the mornings never flagged, yet in the afternoons, there was little spark. The nine-furlong San Gorgonio, it turned out, would determine if the daughter of Slewvescent was instead ready to begin a new life in the broodmare band at Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Farm in Kentucky.

Tout Charmant proved she's still got the touch. Even jockey Chris McCarron admitted his surprise when the mare made an early run down the backstretch, and when he finally cut her loose heading for home, Tout Charmant simply ran them off their feet. Janet and Vencera both came on strong late, but Tout Charmant was long gone, stopping the timer in 1:47.22. The final margin of victory was two lengths, with Janet holding off Vencera by a length for second.

It was the first win for Tout Charmant since she edged Tranquility Lake in the 2000 Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT). And there was added significance, as well. The San Gorgonio provided trainer Ron McAnally with his 100th stakes victory at Santa Anita, tying him with D. Wayne Lukas. Only Charlie Whittingham, with 204, has more.

Popular's Decision
He may not be the next Point Given, but Popular could turn out to be quite a useful horse for The Thoroughbred Corp. The son of Saint Ballado stepped up to a new level on Jan. 13, surviving a game, late charge by Roman Dancer to win the $107,900 San Miguel Stakes (gr. III).

The six-furlong San Miguel officially kicks off the local slate of 3-year-old stakes, though its impact on the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and the Triple Crown has been picayune. Only time will tell if Popular will be able to take his speed around two turns.

The colt first served notice in November's Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III), taking command turning for home before dropping a tight decision to Fonz's. Things looked similar in the San Miguel. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Popular dueled with Distinction before moving ahead entering the turn, and after a :44.21 half, again found himself with a threat to his outside.

This time, it was Roman Dancer, a stakes-winning son of Polish Numbers from the Christopher Paasch stable. They ding-donged through the stretch, with Roman Dancer gaining an edge passing the sixteenth pole. His lead was transient, though, as Popular fought back to prevail by a nose. The final time was 1:09.00.

At the Wire
Trainer Bobby Frankel had 'em surrounded in the $76,300 Blue Norther Stakes on Jan. 9. The winner was Megahertz, a British-bred daughter of Pivotal owned by Michael Bello. After blowing the break, the 3-year-old filly knifed her way through the entire bunch to beat stablemate Nunatall by 1 1/4 lengths. She got the mile in 1:35.74...Macward came through late to nail favored Echo Eddie in the $108,000 Sensational Star Handicap down the 6 1/2-furlong hillside grass course. The 6-year-old son of Sharp Victor races for breeder and co-owner Marvin Malmuth. Ian Jory is his trainer...There may be a new star on the rise, and her name is Azeri. The 4-year-old Jade Hunter filly breezed through another one on Jan. 12. She's now won three straight by a combined 12 lengths. Laura de Seroux trains for the Allen Paulson Living Trust...Shortly after watching Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopeful Siphonic drill seven-eighths in 1:26 and change Jan. 13, trainer David Hofmans got a smart effort from Ask Me No Secrets. Bred and owned by Earl Shultz, the 4-year-old filly looked good taking an 8 1/2-furlong allowance by two lengths. Ask Me No Secrets is by Seattle Slew out of a Secretariat mare...Trainer Simon Bray could have a nice one in Prairie Predator, who broke his maiden going a mile on Jan. 13. The 3-year-old Geri colt, a half-brother to grade I winner Astra, is owned by Madeleine Paulson's Action Racing...Trainer Bill Spawr has Wild and Wise back on the beam. Bred and owned by John and Betty Mabee, the Avenue of Flags gelding beat a solid bunch of older sprinters on Jan. 13, clocking a quick 1:21.33 for seven furlongs.  

(Chart, Equibase)