Tarabilla Farms' Melatonin provided a 16-1 shocker in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), taking the field of nine gate-to-wire to score by 4 1/4 lengths March 12, and withstood an inquiry after the race to make his first stakes win a grade I.
Heading into the final turn, Reddam Racing's Donworth and jockey Mario Gutierrez attempted to move through on the rail—inside of the front-running Melatonin—and checked harshly. Santa Anita Park stewards made no changes after a review, determining Donworth caused his own problems. Donworth ended up tiring to finish seventh, but was rank through most of the race and hard to handle for Gutierrez.
Melatonin set fractions of :22.82, :46.28, and 1:10.81 through six furlongs, hit a mile in 1:36.47 and finished the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.01 under jockey Joe Talamo, well clear of grade I winner Hard Aces, who edged favored Effinex —another grade I winner—by a half-length.
"He's so strong and he had so much horse left, I think he wants to run even farther, and I was convinced he was a miler," said winning trainer David Hofmans after the first Big 'Cap victory of his career.
Prior to the Big 'Cap, the gelding sparkled in his two-turn debut, a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race Feb. 5 and previously ran second in his only other graded try, the Oct. 3 Eddie D Stakes (gr. IIIT) sprinting down the Santa Anita hillside course.
"His race last time was just so impressive to me," Talamo said. "He was sprinting, he was running on turf, but he just impressed me the way he did it. He won by over three (lengths) and it was even easier than it looked, so we thought we'd take a shot today."
With the $600,000 Big 'Cap winner's share, Melatonin pushed his earnings to $768,552. He now has a 4-2-3 record frrom 11 starts and the victory also gave Melatonin's sire, Kodiak Kowboy, his first grade I win as a stallion. Melatonin was bred by S D Brilie LP, out of the Yankee Victor mare Yanquee Reign.
As for Donworth, the 5-2 second choice, trainer Doug O'Neill blamed himself for the rough trip.
"Bad training," O'Neill said. "He was rank. You just have to blame me on that one. Mario did a great job. They were flying and he was trying to get him to settle."