ARCADIA, Calif. (March 22, 2014)–A recent winner at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, longshot Fire With Fire took Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes in gate to wire fashion under Tyler Baze, winning by a half length while covering 1 ½ miles on turf in 2:25.03.
The complexion of the race was altered dramatically a half mile from home when Victor Espinoza, aboard 4-5 favorite Vagabond Shoes, who appeared full of run, eased his mount out of the race that attracted a field of five older horses.
“It really surprised me,” said Espinoza. “He was running excellent, he was dragging me around. The two-horse (Niagara Falls, with Rafael Bejarano) broke in a little bit out of the gate and we got bumped. I could feel his whole body go sideways and he had a different energy after that.
“I didn’t want to push him, I wanted to take my time. Right when I went to make a move, that’s when I heard something. I pulled him up as soon as I could and I hope he’s okay.”
Baze meanwhile, was able to dictate the pace aboard the Neil Drysdale-conditioned Fire With Fire through fractions of 25.80, 48.94, 1:12.95, 1:37.66 and 2:01.52.
“He was really game today,” said Baze. “Last year when I rode him to a third (place finish) in this race, I think the course was a little bit hard for him that day. Today it was a touch softer, but I just let him go out there and have a good time, get on his own pace and not bother him.
“I didn’t try to slow him down, didn’t try to make him speed up, just let him have a good time. He just proved that’s what was going to work with him.”
A winner of the one mile turf Cotton Fitzsimmons Handicap at Turf Paradise on Jan. 18, Fire With Fire was dispatched as the fourth choice in the race at 10-1, and paid $22.80, $8.80 and $7.40.
Owned by David Heerensperger, the 6-year-old Distorted Humor gelding notched his sixth win from 30 starts and collected $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $515,354. Dating back to 1990 with Prized, the win marked Drysdale’s sixth win in the prestigious turf marathon.
“We were expecting him to be on the lead today,” said Drysdale. “We know he has a short run, so I asked Tyler to leave it as long as possible (before making his move in the stretch) which he did. I want to take it step by step and we’ll see where we go next with him.”
Lucayan, who was ridden by Mike Smith, broke inward leaving the gate and sat a close second to the winner throughout, and just prevailed over Temeraine to be second by a nose at odds of 3-1. Also trained by Drysdale, Lucayan paid $4.20 and $4.00.
Ridden by Gary Stevens and the second choice at 5-2, Temeraine sat third the entire trip and finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Niagara Falls and Rafael Bejarano. Temeraine paid $4.80 to show.
First post time on Sunday at Santa Anita is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates will open at 10:30 a.m.