ARCADIA, Calif. (May 30, 2015)–Argentine-bred Catch a Flight attended the early pace and outdueled favored Moreno late to take Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita by a half length under Gary Stevens. Trained by Richard Mandella, Catch a Flight got 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.73 and stamped himself as one of the top contenders for the Grade I, mile and a quarter Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 27.
Breaking from post position seven in a field of eight three year olds and up, Catch a Flight sat a close third behind Big Cazanova and Moreno, wheeled three-wide at the top of the lane and put the favorite away well inside the sixteenth pole.
“Moreno was pretty sluggish leaving the gate and I out-broke him by about a half length,” said Stevens. “On paper and knowing these two horses’ records, it looked like a match race between the two of them and that’s how I wanted to ride it. It worked out because Big Cazanova went up there and kept Moreno occupied down the backside but they were running slow enough fractions for these kinds of horses.
“It looked like a match race and it was a match race until inside the eighth pole. Ever since his first win here (a 1 1/8 miles allowance on Feb. 13), he’s shown me a lot of tenacity and it was just a question of if he was fast enough to win. He’s just now starting to figure out American racing. I think he’s still improving and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
The second choice at 2-1, Catch a Flight paid $6.60, $3.20 and $2.80.
Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Inc., Catch a Flight, a 5-year-old horse by Giant’s Causeway, followed up on a three quarter length win in the Grade III Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita on May 2 and collected his ninth overall win from 15 starts. With the winner’s take of $120,000, he increased his earnings to $393,239.
“When Gary goosed him at the quarter pole, he responded pretty quickly,” said Mandella, who has now sent Catch a Flight out to three wins from five stateside starts. “Gary knows him well enough. I didn’t try to tell him how to ride him…This was a step forward. The time of the race was good and he beat Moreno. Every step he’s made had been forward. We’ll look at the Gold Cup here next.”
Trained by Eric Guillot and ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, Moreno came off a rousing two length win in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Charles Town Classic April 18, defeating top rated older horse Shared Belief.
“My horse, I gave him every chance and he stopped today,” said Velasquez. “The other horse, Catch a Flight, he ran good. My horse, he ran okay.”
Off as the 6-5 favorite, Moreno finished 3 ½ lengths in front of Hard Aces and paid $2.60 and $2.40.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Hard Aces rallied from off the pace to finish third, 1 ¼ lengths in front of Blue Tone. Off at 9-1, Hard Aces paid $3.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.86, 46.94, 1:10.51 and 1:35.05.
First post time on Sunday at Santa Anita is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.