SAMMARTINO WINS HILLSIDE SPEED DUEL IN SANTA ANITA’S KING’S CANYON PURSE

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2011) – Sammartino, a 5-year-old gelding who had been routing in his last five starts, outfinished Mark the Bench to emerge victorious in a speed duel that developed in Thursday’s $56,800 King’s Canyon Purse over 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.

After tracking longshot Mark the Bench throughout the competition, 7-2 third choice Sammartino, a half brother to multiple stakes winning sprinter Bordonaro, pulled alongside entering the stretch before finally bursting clear nearing the wire with Patrick Valenzuela aboard.

The winning margin was 1 ¼ lengths and the final time was 1:13.55. He’s a Dance Star, the 2-1 favorite in a field of seven, gained third, another 1 ¼ lengths back.

Both of the dominant speedsters had seemed stuck on seconds in their respective careers. Mark the Bench, whose previous four starts had been at Golden Gate, had been second eight times during a 26-race career that had produced two wins. Sammartino had been the runner-up five times while winning once in 10 previous starts.

Although he had run second in his last four sprints, trainer Bill Spawr was confident that the roan son of Siberian Summer-Miss Excitement would take a fancy to Santa Anita’s downhill course.

He paid $9, $5 and $3.20. Mark the Bench, ridden by Martin Garcia, returned $8 and $4.60 for his game effort. He’s a Dance Star, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, paid $2.60 to show.

With a winning purse of $33,600, Sammartino boosted his lifetime earnings to $115,640 for owners Fred and Daniel Cassella.

Racing continues on Friday at Santa Anita with an eight-race card that commences at 1 p.m.

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