The 3-year-old Mr. Sekiguchi, an $8 million yearling purchase making his career debut at Santa Anita Saturday for trainer Bob Baffert, opened up a big lead in the stretch before being overtaken close to home by another Baffert trainee, Rising Rate.
Rising Rate, ridden by David Flores, edged away in the final strides to defeat the even-money favorite Mr. Sekiguchi and Victor Espinoza by a half-length in the $46,000 maiden special weight event. The final time in the 5 1/2-furlong heat was a pedestrian 1:05 2/5.
Fusao Sekiguchi, who campaigned Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus
, purchased Mr. Sekiguchi, a son of Storm Cat
-Welcome Surprise (Seeking the Gold
), as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2004. He had worked strongly for his debut.
Breaking from the seven post in a field of eight, Mr. Sekiguchi raced in mid-pack on the outside as Popsa Yankee flashed the first quarter mile in :21 2/5. Mr. Sekiguchi rushed up on the outside to challenge Popsa Yankee on the backstretch and took the lead before they completed a half-mile in :45. He disposed of his pace rival on the turn and appeared to be home free when clear by three lengths in the stretch. Nearing the eighth pole, he began to visibly tire, however, and was drifting inward. He didn't appreciate it when struck with a left-handed whip by Espinoza several times, either, swishing his tail and apparently losing his focus in the final sixteenth of a mile as he was tackled by Rising Rate.
Stetson Land & Cattle LLP owns Rising Rate, a $425,000 Ocala 2-year-old sale one year ago who had two previous out-of-the-money starts. After breaking alertly from his rail post, Flores put the gray Florida-bred son of Exchange Rate
-Miss Virginia (Magic Prospect) into a tracking position along the inside into the stretch.
The second choice in the field of seven, Rising Rate angled out slightly to make his successful run on the outside, paying $6, $3.20, and $2.60. Mr. Sekiguchi returned $2.80 and $2.20. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Prosalate ($3.80), who steadied when squeezed after the break and finished well for Garrett Gomez.