The challengers keep falling by the wayside for Brazilian-bred Leroidesanimaux, who won the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) Saturday on the Santa Anita turf for his sixth straight victory in the United States.
The Bobby Frankel-trained son of Candy Stripes went gate to wire as the 3-2 choice in a field of nine stacked with quality to register a one-length win over 10-1 shot Buckland Manor. Eight of the nine entrants were group or grade I winners, including a pair of Breeders' Cup winners. Leroidesanimaux has won back-to-back grade I races, having captured the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in his last start Nov. 27.
"Being on the lead I didn't think would necessarily be favorable," winning jockey Jon Court related. "I thought a yielding surface would create an atmosphere for horses to rally from behind, and they did, but this is such a competitive horse he loves to run. He showed up today."
Another 10-1 shot, Sweet Return, held off the rallying Meteor Storm by a neck for third, two lengths behind the winner, with the mare Musical Chimes another neck behind in fifth. The final time for the Kilroe Mile, whch was run as a grade I race for the first time, was 1:33 4/5 on a good course.
Leroidesanimaux's current streak includes four consecutive graded stakes wins since transferring to the U.S. in January 2004 from his native country for owner Gonzalo Torrealba's T N T Stud. Court has been aboard for all four.
"He's a good horse," Frankel said. "He keeps sticking his head out (towards the finish line). I think he'll go beyond a mile. He's already won at a mile and a sixteenth, but I think a mile and an eighth would be no problem."
The 5-year-old chestnut was under pressure for the lead from Sweet Return and Gary Stevens from the outset through swift fractions of :22 2/5, :46 and 1:09 3/5. Buckland Manor was screaming for room along the inside while off heels under Robbie Douglas, but was unable to squeeze through behind Leroidesanimaux and Sweet Return. At the eighth pole, Sweet Return angled out a bit and gave Buckland Manor enough room to get off the rail. But once clear, he was unable to run down the winner.
Douglas said he was hoping Leroidesanimaux would open earlier in the stretch drive, but when he didn't, Buckland Manor had no where to go. "Unfortunately by the time I got a chance to come out it was too late," Douglas. "But that's racing and I was still very happy with the way this horse ran."
Sweet Return, the defending Kilroe champion, finished a game third. Meteor Storm, off since July 3, made an encouraging late run under Jose Valdivia Jr.
"He was closing real well," Dollase said of Meteor Storm, who won the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park last spring. "That's what we had hoped for. He's a class act, I love him. You can rate him with your finger. When you ask him he takes off. I was proud of him today and I know the further he goes the more likely he is to hit the winner's circle."
Singletary, making his first start since winning last year's Breeders Cup Mile (gr. IT), had a difficult comeback. He stalked the leaders in third position but lacked the needed kick late and finished seventh.
Leroidesanimaux earned $180,000 for his sixth victory in seven U.S. starts. He has banked $616,860 since shipping here. Overall, his record is 7-1-0 in 10 outings.
He paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80 and topped a $43.60 exacta with Buckland Manor, who returned $8 and $4.80. Sweet Return's show was $5.
Cajun Beat, the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) champ, ran sixth, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Singletary, with Pelligrino and Romeo Plus bringing up the rear.