Calder invader Imperialism caught 11-10 favorite Hosco inside the final eighth of a mile to register a 1 1/4-length victory in the $150,000 San Vicente (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita Saturday.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza in his first start for young trainer Kristin Mulhall, the Steve Taub-owned gray colt by Langfuhr
tallied his first stakes victory from off the pace at odds of 14-1. He completed the seven furlongs in 1:22 1/5 on a fast track. Hosco, with Tyler Baze aboard, held off Consecrate and Kent Desormeaux by a head for second.
Teton Forest, the 6-5 second choice in the field of six, finished fifth.
Breaking slowly from the rail, Imperialism was last down the backstretch. He made a four-wide move on the home turn to reach contention in the stretch, pressing on strongly to wear down the pacesetting Hosco and Consecrate, who kept the pressure on the leader through fractions of :22 2/5, :44 3/5 and 1:09 1/5. After gaining the lead past mid-stretch, Imperialism lugged in through the late going in spite of Espinoza's left-handed urging.
Espinoza, who won last year's San Vicente with Kafwain, said he wasn't concerned about the bad break.
"When it was time to go I just loosened the reins a little bit and I had a lot of horse in there," he said. "There was so much horse I didn't want to take him inside. I had to go around and make sure that I didn't get stuck."
Hosco,who won the six-furlong San Miguel (gr. III) over the Santa Anita course on Jan. 11, had not been in headed while winning his first three starts. He nearly went gate-to-wire once more. Racing off the rail until angling in on the turn, Hosco could not hold off the winner, however.
Baze said he thought Hosco, who went to the front without urging and carved out sensible fractions while toting high weight of 120 pounds, was in control.
"At the turn I said all I've got to do is push the button and he'll go," Baze said. "But I think it's just a little bit too far for him."
Teton Forest, ridden by David Flores, was in close stalking position while racing along the inside into the stretch, but was boxed in and lacked a late rally.
Imperialism, whose 12 previous starts all came at Calder Race Course, was coming off a fifth-place finish on the turf in the 1 1/8-mile Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) Jan. 1, his only start against graded stakes foes. He was a close second to Timo in the $100,000 Mecke, also on the grass. He broke his maiden in a $25,000 claiming heat last summer. Overall, he improved to 4-3-1 in 13 outings with earnings of $167,605.
"I was a little worried (about the slow pace) but I was actually thinking he was going to be further back," Mulhall said. "But I've seen him close and he can fly down the stretch. We were just hoping (Espinoza) was going to swing him out and make one run and that's what he did."
Farnsworth Farms bred the winner in Kentucky. Imperialism is from the Pass the Tab mare Bodhavista.
Imperialism paid $30.20, $7.20 and $3.60. Hosco returned $3 and $2.40. Consecrate's show was $3.20. The $2 exacta was worth $66.60.
Wimplestiltskin, Teton Forest and Number Juan completed the order of finish.