ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 28, 2016)–An allowance winner on dirt just eight days ago, the Doug O’Neill-conditioned Guns Loaded transitioned back to the turf in fine fashion on Sunday, as he took Santa Anita’s featured $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths. Ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, Guns Loaded negotiated 6 ½ furlongs down the Camino Real Turf Course in 1:12.60.
“All the credit goes to Doug,” said part-owner and O’Neill assistant, Steve Rothblum. “If you’re a numbers player, on the Ragozin Sheets, if you run them back off a good race, within nine days, they run great. If you wait longer, they don’t. It’s either run them back quick or run them back after 30 days. “We lost this horse for 32 (thousand, dollars) at Del Mar (Nov. 5) and when we took him back in December (6, at Los Alamitos), Pete Miller did us a favor, ’cause he castrated him and it really helped him. He’s a neat little horse that tries his guts out. He can run on dirt or on grass, it’s so cool to watch him progress like that.”
Second, about a length and half behind favored Rocket Heat crossing the dirt at the top of the stretch, Guns Loaded rallied powerfully to overhaul “Rocket” a furlong out and won as much best. Off at 6-1 in a field of seven, Guns Loaded paid $14.80, $6.00 and $3.20.
“When we put him on the grass (three starts back, on Dec. 27) he ran huge,” said O’Neill. “But, he ran big last time when they took the race off the grass as well. He’ll definitely get a breather now. He’s done a lot here in eight days, so he’s deserving of a month off or so. What an honest, nice horse.”
Owned by Westside Rentals.com, Neil Haymes, Leo Rodriguez and Steve Rothblum, Guns Loaded, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding by D’wildcat, he’s now two for five down the hillside turf and is 25-7-3-4 overall. With the winner’s share of $47,100, he increased his earnings to $346,570.
Off at 9-5, the aptly named Rocket Heat showed the way early under Rafael Bejarano and proved game for second money, prevailing by a head over Irish-bred Hunt. Rocket Heat paid $3.80 and $2.60.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Hunt was the second choice in the wagering at 5-2 and paid $2.80 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.32, 43.14 and 1:06.31.