ARCADIA, Calif. (June 29, 2014)–Big Kick took what appeared to be a big jump in class in stride Sunday, winning in gate to wire fashion by 2 ¾ lengths in Santa Anita’s closing day Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Stakes under Victor Espinoza, traversing a marathon 1 ¾ miles on turf in 2:46.78 after cruising through uncontested fractions of 24.88, 48.97, 1:12.19, 1:37.19, 2:02.69 and 2:28.94.
A handy front-running winner of a first condition allowance at 1 ¼ miles over the Santa Anita grass on June 13, the Mike Machowsky-trained Big Kick tried stakes company for the first time in the San Juan and after opening up as much as 10 lengths on the backstretch he easily withstood a belated run from 3-5 favorite Quick Casablanca.
“I wanted to let him run out of there,” said Espinoza. “I didn’t want to rate him too much. I wanted to let him do it and he was doing it comfortably. I wanted to open up two or three lengths and it was so easy so I let him stretch his legs even more. When we got to the three eighths, it was time to open it up as much as I could.
“I thought that if I could open up from there they were all going to have a hard time catching me. It worked out. I was too far in front to be worried about Quick Casablanca, and he still had plenty left and enough energy to get it done.”
The second choice in the wagering at 9-2, Big Kick paid $11.60, $4.40 and $3.00. With the win he picked up $120,000 and improved his overall record to 19-5-2-1. Owned by Ernest Marchosky, Ken Shaw, Kate Walters and partners, he now has earnings of $254,631.
“I just told Victor to be a little aggressive and get him on the lead and we’ll see how it works out. When he came by the wire the first time, I couldn’t have been happier. His ears were flicking back and forth and Victor was sitting on him…I knew he’d kick clear.”
Heavily favored on the strength of a pair of big races over the Santa Anita turf–a win in the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles Last Tycoon Stakes on April 25 and a close third place run in the Grade II, 1 ¼ miles Charles Whittingham on May 24, Quick Casablanca, with regular rider Joe Talamo up, simply couldn’t overcome the huge lead that Big Kick had with a quarter mile to run.
“I had a great trip but I got outrun,” said Talamo. “Big Kick set his own pace and I just had to keep going with it. From the half mile pole home, I was trying to make up ground. I tip my hat to him, that horse was goin’ for the distance, it was impressive.”
Quick Casablanca finished 9 ¾ lengths in front of Starspangled Heat and paid $2.40 and $2.10.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Starspangled Heat finished 9 ¼ lengths in front of Bailoutbobby. Off at 8-1, Starspangled Heat paid $3.40 to show.
Live racing will resume at Santa Anita with opening day of the 2014 Autumn Meet on Friday, Sept. 26 and the track will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for an unprecedented third consecutive year on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.