Odds-on favorite King's Drama provided some intrigue in the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf before the classy veteran overtook the front-running Railroad in deep stretch to win by a half-length Sunday.
Ridden by David Flores for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Gary Tanaka, King's Drama was making his first start since June at a distance -- nine furlongs -- that is shorter than he's accustomed to. He also carried top weight of 121 pounds for his return.
But the 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding King's Drama responded well, closing out his 2006 campaign with his second grade II win on the Santa Anita turf this season.
He won the San Luis Rey Handicap March 25 but had not been out since his second-place finish -- two lengths behind Lava Man -- in the Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park turf June 11.
King's Drama was away smoothly as Railroad, ridden by Aaron Gryder, bounced to the lead and took them along by up to two lengths heading into the far turn after easy fractions of :24 2/5, :49 1/5 and 1:13 1/5 on firm going.
King's Drama, joined on the inside by Hendrix, began to cut into that lead as they came off the turn, but the sprinter Railroad was stubborn while attempting the distance for the first time at odds of 10-1.
King's Drama finally reached even terms with Railroad as they left the sixteenth pole, and Hendrix flattened out after he ran out of room and took up briefly.
King's Drama edged away slightly in the final strides to win in a slow time of 1:48 2/5. Railroad was one length better than Hendrix, who was coming off a second-place finish in Hollywood Park's Citation Handicap (gr. IT) five weeks ago.
"He’s a long-striding horse and he’s got a good turn of foot, but it takes him about a sixteenth of a mile to really get going," explained Flores.
King's Drama came out of the race with a cut on his foot.
“He’s a good horse," said Frankel, who won the San Gabriel last year with Badge of Silver. "The Tin Man proved you’re never too old to win on the turf, and this horse tries hard and he’s a gelding, so he’s going to be around a long time, as long as I take good care of him.
"I hope he’s OK. I think he just won on class.”
The victory was the 10th in 30 lifetime starts for King's Drama, a grade I winner in 2005 when he captured Saratoga's 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer.
The son of King's Theatre--Last Drama (Last Tycoon) earned an additional $90,000 to run his bankroll to $1,157,916.
Frankel won his second major stakes of the Santa Anita meeting, which is less than a week old. The Frankel-trained Latent Heat triumphed in the Malibu (gr. I) on opening day Dec. 26.
King's Drama paid $3,80, $2.80, and $2.20, topping a $28.60 exacta with Railroad, who returned $8.20 and $5. Hendrix, the second choice, was $2.40 to show.
“Everything went the way it needed to go to win that kind of race," said Brian Koriner, trainer of Railroad.
"Aaron rode him perfect and on paper, there wasn’t much speed in there. They came home in 12 seconds after a mile and an eighth. They ran a good race.”
The Chilean-bred Portifido, also trained by Frankel, finished 2 3/4 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Don Incauto, Southern Africa, Capitano, and Rhythm Mad.