ARGENTINE-BRED TO BE CONSIDERED FOR GRADE I, $1 MILLION SANTA ANITA HANDICAP MARCH 7
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2015)–Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens got his 5,000 North American win Friday aboard the Richard Mandella-trained Catch a Flight in Santa Anita’s $58,000 allowance feature, as the Argentine-bred horse by Giant’s Causeway motored to a neck victory while covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.09.
Stevens, a 51-year-old native of Caldwell, Idaho, who has also ridden full-time in England, France and Hong Kong, reached the 5,000 world-wide plateau in 2005, after which he retired from the saddle for seven years prior to returning to active duty at Santa Anita in January, 2013.
A winner of three Kentucky Derbies, a record nine Santa Anita Derbies, four Santa Anita Handicaps and 10 Breeders’ Cup races, Stevens is considered one of Racing’s all-time greats–however his win Friday aboard 4-5 favorite Catch a Flight was not an easy one.
“It’s very special,” said Stevens. “The owners, the trainers have been nice enough to put me on all these good horses through the years. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of fun and obviously, I love it or I wouldn’t be out there.”
Group I stakes placed in Brazil, 5-year-old Catch a Flight was third, beaten 2 ½ lengths in his U.S. debut with Stevens, a one mile allowance on Jan. 19. Stretching out a furlong today, Catch a Flight rated kindly under Stevens and was a close fifth past the half mile pole, took command turning for home and had to call upon his class to hold off longshot Sammy Mandeville close home in a field of seven older horses.
Catch a Flight paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.40. Owned by Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Catch a Flight picked up his seventh win from 12 starts and with the winner’s share of $34,800, increased his earnings to $93,749–and quite possibly punched a ticket to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap at a mile and a quarter on March 7.
“We’ll keep an eye on it,” said Mandella in reference to the Big ‘Cap. “He should improve with this race and with added distance. I’m not sure we’ve seen his best race yet.”
As for the margin of victory, Stevens explained that Catch a Flight has waited on other horses in the morning and that he wasn’t surprised when he appeared to do it again today.
“In the mornings, any time a horse has come up and sort of challenged him, he’s done exactly what he did here,” said Stevens. “(Sammy Mandville) is never going to get by him, even galloping out, he never did get by him. I’m not sure this is even far enough for him…He handled this just fine and it was racehorse time, but he’s going to enjoy a little bit further, I think.
“I worked him back in November and I didn’t even know he had conditions, but I said ‘This might be our Big ‘Cap horse.’ We’re all kind of thinking along the same lines, but we’ll see how he comes out of it…He’s definitely a Grade I type horse.”
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Sammy Mandeville sat a close third at the rail, just inside the winner past the half mile, swung four-wide turning for home and made the winner hustle late, although he never overtook him on the gallop-out into the Club House turn.
Off at 8-1, Sammy Mandville finished 2 ¼ lengths in front of Motown Men and paid $5.60 and $4.40.
Off at 30-1 with Felipe Valdez aboard, Motown Men paid $7.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.02, 46.86, 1:10.97 and 1:36.24.
(Stevens, who became the 25th jockey to win 5,000 North American races, was joined in the Winner’s Circle by his wife, Angie and their 5-year-old daughter, Maddie. Stevens has won four Santa Anita Winter Meet titles and was leading rider three times at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree Meeting).
First post time for a nine-race card on Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.