Brazilian-bred Pico Central, ignored at odds of 43-1, led every step of the way and posted a two-length victory over Publication in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) for sprinters Sunday at Santa Anita Park.
Ridden by David Flores at 116 pounds, Pico Central ran seven furlongs in a brisk 1:21 and paid $88.40, $20.60 and $11.80. Paulo Lobo is the trainer for Christine Garlipp of Rio De Janeiro, who flew in for the race. It was the first Santa Anita stakes victory for the 35-year-old Lobo, who trained 2002 Eclipse Award-winning filly Farda Amiga.
The time was the fastest in the San Carlos since Cherokee Colony's 1:20 3/5 in 1989, and the payoff was second biggest in the 66-year history of the race, topped only by Texas Sandman's $111.90 mutuel in 1947.
On a day when 8-5 betting favorite Bluesthestandard struggled to a seventh-place finish, Pico Central was at the top of his game. The 5-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck dueled for the early lead to gain the advantage while setting fractions of :22 1/5, :44 and 1:08 2/5. He entered the stretch with a 2 ½-length lead over Captain Squire and wasn't seriously threatened.
"I saw his last race and he showed a lot of speed," Flores said. "I was just trying to get him relaxed, because in his first race (an allowance/optional claiming event Jan. 25) he was much faster then the rest of the field. I got a good hold of him and had control of him the first quarter of a mile, and that breather gave him a little bit of help."
Publication, Kent Desormeaux riding at 116 pounds, rallied furiously in the final furlong to pick up second place and returned $6.40 and $4.80.
It was two lengths back to Pohave, with Jon Court aboard at 112 pounds, and a $7 show payoff. Kela finished fourth and was followed by Eye of the Tiger, Casas Caballo, Bluesthestandard, Captain Squire, Taste of Paradise and Marino Marini. Amerindio and Question were scratched earlier in the day.
Twice a group I winner in Brazil, Pico Central is two-for-two in the United States. His first victory here was via disqualification, and he paid $77 to win. Pico Central is 6-0-1 from 10 starts overall and the $90,000 first prize more than doubled his earnings to $170,145
Bluesthestandard's disappointing effort puzzled trainer Ted. H. West.
"I have no idea what happened, really," West said. "I haven't gone into a stakes race any more confident than I was this time. That just shows this business can fool you and he fooled us today, and he's a horse that brings his 'A' game every single time."
Bluesthestandard wasn't the only favorite to fizzle. Long shots dominated action throughout the day creating a large carryover of $219,649 on Wednesday.(Chart, Equibase)