Most enter a turf race with the hopes it will stay on the lawn, keeping their fingers crossed for good weather.
Blue Tone's connections supplemented to the $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park thinking it might come off the turf, and couldn't have been happier in rainy Southern California when their 8-year-old Birdstone gelding splashed through the slop to his first stakes score.
Owned by Beverly Engelberg, Schoeder Farms, and Jan Steeper, Blue Tone entered the 1 1/8-mile off-the-turf edition of the San Gabriel off a fourth after bobbling at the start of the Nov. 27 Native Diver Stakes (G3) at Del Mar. He was an even third throughout the Nov. 4 Marathon Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park one start prior, but a look back to his last win—an Oct. 7 allowance/optional claimer—shows a penchant for speed he was able to utilize this time out.
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux sat a chilly cruising trip on Blue Tone from the inside post as his mount naturally inherited the lead in the field of eight older runners, setting opening fractions of :23.16, :47.17, and 1:11.56. Stalking rival Itsinthepost moved up around the turn to head the frontrunner, but Desormeaux shook his mount up firmly at the top of the lane and Blue Tone took the cue, surging back mid-stretch and drawing clear for a 1 1/4-length win.
"Not for nothing but he must be a mudder," Desormeaux said. "He won't step in a puddle on the road out to the racetrack in the mornings, but I walked him out onto the track today and he was paddling in it, like a child in the mud. He was like a little kid. He was enjoying himself."
Itsinthepost was second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Twentytwentyvision, who closed from far back to get third. Point Piper was fourth and Ring Weekend, favored at 8-5, crossed the wire fifth, followed home by Perfectly Majestic, A Red Tie Day, and Quick Casablanca.
"It was apparent there wasn't any pace in the race," trainer Bob Hess Jr. said. "The other day when he stumbled (out of the gate in the Native Diver), we couldn't have beaten the winner, but I thought we could've been second. He's a big lumbering horse and when he's able to run like this, he's a lot better.
"We've got some money now, so we're going to run next at Gulfstream in the Poseidon on Jan. 28. It's $400,000 and we're going to take a shot."
Automatically downgraded from its grade 2 status because of the surface switch, the San Gabriel will be reevaluated by the American Graded Stakes Committee as to whether it should retain its original grade. Flamboyant, Syntax, Conquest Daddyo, and Some in Tieme were scratched because the race was taken off the grass.
Blue Tone improved his earnings to $558,870 from a 7-4-3 record from 25 starts. He was a $100,000 purchase by Hess from Gainesway's consignment to the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, and was bred in Kentucky by Far View Stables out of the Cartwright mare Princess Cart.