Dixie Chatter slid through an opening on the rail mid-stretch and kicked clear to win the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Park April 4 for his first graded stakes win since capturing the 2007 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I).
Ridden by Tyler Baze, the Herman Sarkowsky homebred held on gamely by three-quarters of a length over the rallying longshot Mr Nappy Tandy, who edged favored Madeo by a neck for the runner-up spot. The final time for the one-mile event on firm going was a solid 1:34.12.
“It was perfect, Baze said. "We tried to sit down the whole way, went around a tired horse at the three-eighths pole, just sat on the rail, and really waited to see how it was going to unfold in front me. It got tight for a few strides, but we just waited a little longer with him.”
Trained by Richard Mandella, Dixie Chatter has really taken to the turf since winning a division of the Oceanside Stakes to open the Del Mar meet last summer, but always seemed just a little short. In his last start, the Frank Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT) March 7, the 4-year-old Dixie Union colt rallied four wide to get the lead mid-stretch only to be tagged late by Gio Ponti and Ventura, losing by three-quarters of a length.
“The last couple of races he gives me the whole bit but not quite enough," Baze said. "Today he gave me 100 percent.”
Added Mandella: “It’s just nice to win one with him. He’s been trying so hard for so long. He got beat a half a length, three quarters of a length, and it’s nice to finally win with him.”
Dixie Chatter settled toward the rear of the Arcadia's eight-horse field as Holy Thunder showed the way through quarter-mile splits of :23.05, :46.98, and 1:10.77. Though the pace wasn't that hot, Madeo, the 17-10 choice ridden by Garrett Gomez, trailed in last by as many as 14 lengths early and simply had too much ground to make up in the final quarter mile.
Angled to the inside on the final turn, the bay colt waited for room as Madeo and Mr Napper Tandy closed from the middle of the track. Dixie Chatter slipped through on the inside of Holy Thunder and briefly enjoyed a daylight lead. Mr Nappy Tandy, waiting off heels, finally got clear near the eighth pole and rallied well under Joel Rosario for second at odds of 18-1.
Desert Code, last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner and the Arcadia's 3-1 second choice, loomed a threat after pressing the pace into the homestretch but faded to finish last.
Dixie Chatter's fourth victory in 12 lifetime starts was worth $90,000 and increased his bankroll to $458,196. The winner, out of Mini Chat, by Deputy Minister, is co-owned by Pamela and Martin Wygod.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Dixie Chatter, paid $9.80, $5.20, and $3.40 while topping a $2 exacta worth $113.80. The British-bred Mr Napper Tandy, raced with blinkers on for trainer Jack Carava and returned $12.40 and $5.40. This was the 11th runner-up finish in Mr Napper Tandy's 22-race career. Madeo, winner of the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) last summer for trainer John Shirreffs, was $2.80 to show.
Sky Cape, Global Hunter, Holy Thunder, Booyah, and Desert Code completed the order of finish.