With Joel Rosario aboard the 6-year-old gelding for the first time, Bourbon Bay managed to wrangle plenty of drama out of a race with only five entrants. He rallied powerfully from last at the quarter pole to get up in a stirring finish while running the 12 furlongs in 2:25.78 over a turf course rated firm.
“I don’t know what he (Rosario) was doing so far back," said winning trainer Neil Drysdale, who added that he had instructed the rider to race in second or third. "I thought he waited too long, although it’s very difficult to judge this course, how fast it is, when it starts raining. It’s very difficult."
Bourbon Bay, six for eight in his career on the Santa Anita turf, won the San Luis Rey for the second time. David and Jill Heerensperger's Kentucky-bred son of Sligo Bay also won it in 2010, when the race was a handicap.
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 11, Bourbon Bay has now won five grade II grass events at Santa Anita during his career.
The second start of the year for the 25-race campaigner would appear to have him right on edge for the meet-closing San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) April 22. Bourbon Bay won the 'Capistrano in 2010.
“He’s a very good campaigner, but he doesn’t like deep turf," Drysdale said. "That’s one of the drawbacks, so I was concerned about the course, because he doesn’t like it soft. We’ll bring him back in the San Juan Capistrano."
Bourbon Bay was bred by Adena Springs. The bay is out of Coral Necklace, by Conquistador Cielo.
The start of the race was moved off the hillside due to the expected slickness of the going, and contested on the main turf course. Bourbon Bay, the 6-5 favorite, showed no early speed, trailing only Slim Shadey through the early portion of the race.
Slim Shadey, who won the 1 1/4-mile San Marcos in front-running style Feb. 11, then picked up the tempo from fourth. He pressed his way into contention for David Flores on the outside as they commenced a three-eighths mile dash for the wire.
Slim Shadey wrested the lead from a stubborn Hog's Hollow and Utopian near mid-stretch and gradaully opened up a clear advantage at the sixteenth marker. He appeared headed for his third consecutive victory.
But Bourbon Bay, who appeared well beaten at the top of the stretch, advanced quickly in the final furlong to get up in another game effort under some urging from Rosario. "I’ve never been on him before, but he has a nice turn of foot," Rosario marveled afterward. "He tries really hard at this distance. My horse felt good on the track. I don’t know how the others handled the rain, but everything worked out perfect for my horse.”
Slim Shadey, the 123-pound top weight, was second by 2 1/2 lengths over Hog's Hollow, ridden by Garrett Gomez. Utopian and Porfido trailed. Slim Shadey drifted a bit from Flores' whip in the late stages as he was nabbed at the wire.
“I wouldn’t change anything about the race today," Flores said. "The favorite had to come and catch me if he was good enough, and he did."
Bourbon Bay's eighth lifetime win was worth $90,000 and boosted his career earnings to $878,536.
He carried 118 pounds and paid $4.40, $2.60, $2.20. Phil Cunningham's British homebred Slim Shadey returned $4.20 and $2.60 as the unfortunate loser for trainer Simon Callaghan. Hog's Hollow, in his stakes debut, was $3.20 to show. The exacta paid $15.20 and the trifecta was worth $91.20.
Highway Bandit scratched.