MASTERFUL RIDE BY BEJARANO GETS JUNIPER PASS HOME IN GRADE II SAN LUIS REY AFTER MARATHON TAKEN OFF THE TURF; JOCKEY GAINS STAKES DOUBLE WITH EASY WIN ABOARD MILDLY OFFENSIVE IN SANTA PAULA STAKES

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 20, 2011) – A series of “off” conditions combined with jockey Rafael Bejarano getting on board helped send 9-2 shot Juniper Pass to a one-half length victory over pacesetter Dahoud in Santa Anita’s 60th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 ½ miles on Sunday.

For the first time in 36 years, the marathon event was moved off the turf on a rainy, blustery afternoon. And after taking off the blinkers that he had worn in his 10 previous races, Juniper Pass responded to the off conditions of a “wet fast” main track despite never having raced over a surface other than grass. It didn’t hurt either that turf marathon standouts Champ Pegasus and Bourbon Bay were off to Dubai.

Bejarano, atop the 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid for the first time, rode him masterfully. New Zealand-bred Dahoud figured as the only speed horse in a field of six, but Bejarano never let him out of his sights. In close pursuit the entire long-distance journey, Juniper Pass nailed Dahoud, ridden by Joel Rosario, in the closing yards.

The final time was 2:32.64. The dawdling fractions included a half in 51.25, six furlongs in 1:17.95 and one mile in 1:43.44. Imponente Purse, with Chantal Sutherland aboard, finished third, 4 ½ lengths behind Dahoud.

Juniper Pass had finished a well-beaten fifth behind Champ Pegasus, Bourbon Bay and Haimish Hy in the Feb. 19 San Luis Obispo Stakes, a Grade II at 1 ½ miles that opens Santa Anita’s three-race turf marathon series which concludes with the historic Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles on April 17.

“The last thing I wanted to do was take on Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus again,” said Ray Bell, the trainer of Juniper Pass, in reference to the pair that has departed to take part in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic on March 26. Haimish Hy, a deep closer, became the 8-5 favorite in the San Luis Rey. But, the way the race unfolded, his come-from-behind style was nullified. Haimish Hy finished fourth, 7 ½ lengths behind Imponente Purse.

The decision to switch jockeys in order to procure Bejarano’s services was made after the San Luis Obispo. Brice Blanc had been a key factor in the early development of Juniper Pass. But following the colt’s fifth-place finish in his last start, co-owner Robert Irwin asked Bell if “another jockey might get along better with the horse.” After Bejarano worked the $170,000 auction purchase, Bell said Juniper Pass “seems to be doing better than ever.”

According to Bell, he did not say anything to his new rider concerning instructions prior to the bay colt’s first stakes victory. “I left it up to the jock, and thank God I did,” said Bell. “He knew what kind of pace they were going. I told the jock to just play it by ear. We knew that Dahoud would be on the lead. That was the only thing we knew. I kind of left it up to Rafael.”

“My horse ran really well for his first time on the dirt,” Bejarano said. “He surprised everybody. I knew the No. 8 (Dahoud) was going to go to the lead and try and slow the pace. My only chance was to put my horse right behind the speed the whole way around. I’m glad it worked out. My horse showed me a big kick in the stretch. The other horse (Dahoud) came running, but my horse was very strong.”

Juniper Pass paid $11.20, $4.20 and $3.20. The mutuels on Dahoud were $3.60 and $3. The show price on Imponente Purse was $3.60. The winner earned $90,000 to increase his career earnings to $194,380 for Irwin and his wife, Betty, of Pacific Palisades. The record of Juniper Pass became 3-1-2 in 11 races.

Bejarano didn’t encounter much competition later in the program when he guided odds-on choice Mildly Offensive to an easy 4 ¼-length win in the 26th running of the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

The Kentucky-bred daughter of Sharp Humor validated what trainer Carla Gaines called a “monster win” in her maiden debut by moving right into stakes company and proving dominant while traversing the distance in 1:15.70.

She popped the gate for Bejarano, who let her settle behind California Nectar and Tiz the Route. Mildly Offensive was urged nearing the far turn, and she quickly spurted to the front and began to open up. The bay filly crossed the wire in hand as Hout Bay closed gamely for second, 5 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place Justenufappeal in the field of six.

Mildly Offensive’s winning margin was the same as she had recorded in her only previous start while blitzing a solid field of maiden fillies over a “wet fast” surface and being timed in 1:08 1/5 for six furlongs.

“It’s always a little scary, the second race after a monster win,” Gaines had said before the Santa Paula. “I have a feeling she’ll do good things.” “She ran to our expectations,” the trainer said afterward. “My filly was the best filly in the race,” Bejarano stated flatly.

After increasing her earnings to $92,400 for owner Warren Williamson, Mildly Offensive paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Hout Bay, ridden by Rosario, paid $3.60 and $2.80. Justenufappeal, with Joe Talamo aboard, paid $3.40 to show.

After dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita on Wednesday returns to a five-day-a-week racing schedule the balance of the meeting that concludes on April 17. First post for Wednesday’s eight-race program is at 1 p.m.

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