ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2014)–Mid-pack past the half mile pole, the John Sadler-trained Vagabond Shoes was caught six wide turning for home and finished resolutely as the 5-2 favorite, winning Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Marcos Stakes by a 1 ¼ lengths under Victor Espinoza, while covering 1 ¼ miles on turf in 1:58.88.
As expected, Slim Shadey, who broke from the rail with Corey Nakatani, was sent to the front as the field came by the grandstand for the first time, and he was joined by Segway, with Flavien Prat, and together, they raced as a team to deep stretch, cutting out fractions of 23.77, 47.50, 1:11.53 and 1:35.38.
Idle since running a close fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles on Nov. 2, Irish-bred Vagabond Shoes called upon his class and won as best.
“Today I wanted to ride smart, sit back and save ground for the first turn,” said Espinoza, who had ridden the 7-year-old gelding in his last four starts, winning the Grade II Del Mar Handicap three starts back on Aug. 24. “I just wanted to find my way around and it set up well for me. From the half mile pole I knew he was full of run, he was dragging me around. I was just waiting.
“I didn’t want to go too early and I just kept looking for the stretch so I could finally let him run and let him stretch his legs. He ran just like he was supposed to.”
Owned by Hronis Racing, Vagabond Shoes paid $7.40, $4.40 and $3.20. He picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $665,497. He now has eight wins from 29 career starts.
“He’s a nice horse,” said Sadler. “He can run in a few different distances, but this is the one I wanted (as opposed to the one mile turf Arcadia last Saturday). “He ran a really good race in the Breeders’ Cup, but this looked like his comfort zone. Victor did a nice job. He made a good move not to get trapped on the inside…he wanted to get a little bit clear.”
French-bred Si Sage, off at 19-1, finished well under Martin Garcia for the place, finishing a neck in front of Lucayan, who was the fourth choice in the race at 5-1. He paid $15.40 and $8.80.
Lucayan, also bred in France, rallied from last early to finish third, a length in front of Segway, who was disqualified for interference in deep stretch and placed 10th.
Lucayan paid $3.80 to show.
Jeranimo, who at age 8 was off as the 7-2 second choice, tried to unleash his customary late rally from last at the top of the lane, but had to settle for sixth place.
“He just didn’t fire today,” said his trainer, Mike Pender.
Slim Shadey, who won the San Marcos in both 2012 and 2013, stayed gamely, but was knocked off stride by Segway late and finished seventh, a nose behind Jeranimo.