ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2010) – After closing strongly to win his first test at 1 ½ miles in an allowance event last month, Bourbon Bay established his stakes credentials as a marathoner Sunday when running away with Santa Anita’s 54th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at 1 ½ miles on turf.

With leading rider Rafael Bejarano in the irons, the 4-year-old Sligo Bay gelding burst away from his competition in midstretch to score by 4 ¼ lengths over Unusual Suspect while negotiating the distance in 2:28.89.

It was the first stakes victory for Bourbon Bay and the second San Luis Obispo for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, whose other entrant, Obrigado, wound up a distant fifth after having provided the first San Luis Obispo win for his trainer in 2007.

Argentine-bred Sudden War, who had raced primarily in the East, took control of the early running and led the field of eight through pedestrian fractions with Bourbon Bay tracking in second. The first six furlongs went in 1:15.14; the mile in 1:41.12.

After the winner assumed complete control in the closing stages, Unusual Suspect, ridden by Alonso Quinonez, overtook Sudden War by 1 ¼ lengths. The latter held third under Alex Solis. Dynamic Range, the 2-1 favorite, wound up seventh after chasing the two leaders early.

“I was in a great position to the first turn,” Bejarano said. “I was able to cover my horse up and stay nice and relaxed until the half-mile pole, and then I asked him. With the (moderate) fractions we had, you have to have a lot of horse (to catch the pacesetter). But when you’re on the best horse, it makes it easy. My horse has a really good turn of foot in the stretch.”

Sent off as the third choice at odds of 7-2, Bourbon Bay returned $9.60, $5.20 and $4.20. Unusual Suspect, a 12-1 shot, paid $10 and $6. The show price on 5-2 second-choice Sudden War was $4.20.

Drysdale purchased Bourbon Bay in the fall of 2008 on behalf of David and Jill Heerensperger of Bellevue, Wash. He had raced three times in his 3-year-old season when the private transaction was completed.

“When we purchased this horse, we purchased him with the idea that he’d be a mile-and-a-half horse,” said Drysdale, “so he’s lived up to that. It looks like he’s improving. He had a lot of mucous and allergy problems as a 3-year-old, but he seems fine now.”

Bourbon Bay’s biggest career victory was worth $90,000 and increased his career earnings to $209,424 from an overall record of 3-2-2 in 11 starts. Prior to being stretched out to 1 ½ miles in his previous start, Bourbon Bay had been winless in six races for the Heerenspergers.

Following dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita will resume racing with an eight-race card on Wednesday with first post at 1 p.m.