Michael House's Big John B has only raced on dirt twice in his last 36 starts, but he seems to take to the surface just fine.
A two-time grade II winner on the turf, after his 2 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park the 7-year-old Hard Spun gelding is now two-for-two on the dirt at the 1 1/2-mile distance. He also won the Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) at the same trip in July at Del Mar.
Off as the 3-2 favorite Sunday, he trailed the field through the first mile—as many as 13 1/2 lengths back—as Phil D'Amato stablemate John's Success set fractions of :23.94, :48.01, and 1:12.71 through six furlongs.
"I really wasn't worried (about him being that far back), because when he won (the Cougar II) he did the same thing," D'Amato said. "He just kind of waited to find his stride (and) slowly moved up on the back side by the half-mile pole."
Big John B cut the deficit to seven lengths after a mile in 1:38.05 and blew by on the outside in the stretch to win easily under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
"We decided to try the dirt again and thought, 'Why not?' " said Bejarano, who also guided Big John B to the Cougar II victory and then the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) in his subsequent start. "It was a really exciting win. I knew there would only be two or three horses with speed and they tried to go slow, but my horse only has one style. He likes to come from behind. I wasn't panicking. I knew that I had a lot of horse, so I was comfortable."
Second choice Lieutenant Colonel put his head in front at the top of the lane after tracking John's Success most of the way, but tired to finish fourth. Class Leader closed from sixth to finish second and Blingo was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third.
The winner paid $5, $3.40, and $2.60 across the board. Class Leader brought $5.40 and $3.60, and Blingo delivered $5 to show.
Bred by n Florida by Brylynn Farm from the Doneraile Court mare Baldomera, Big John B has a 15-6-5 record from 40 starts and $849,770 in earnings.
John's Success tired to come in fifth, followed by China Girl Lover and Ike Walker, to complete the order of finish.
The victory gave D'Amato his third win on the Santa Anita card, to put him atop the trainer standings, three wins ahead (35-32) of Doug O'Neill.