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AMAZOMBIE CRUSHES IN GRADE I ANCIENT TITLE, ODDS-ON FAVORITE THE FACTOR SPINS OUT OF MONEY, JERANIMO TAKES NO PRISONERS IN GRADE II O.T. MILE
By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Amazombie circled the field at the top of the stretch and took the lead on his way to a three-quarters of a length victory in the $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, while The Factor faded to fourth.
Amazombie ran six furlongs in 1:08.24 to earn an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint next month at Churchill Downs. He paid $8.60, $3.60 and $6.60 at 3-1 odds.
Jeranimo won the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile, which could lead to a start in the BC Mile.
In the Ancient Title, Irrefutable returned $5.40 and $12.60, while Mensa Heat was another head back in third. Sent off as the overwhelming 2-5 favorite, The Factor had the lead approaching the quarter pole only to fade down the stretch.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wasn't happy when The Factor drew the No. 1 post, a spot he famously detests.
"The post position was a killer for him," Baffert said. "They had him trapped. When it was 21 (seconds) flat for the first quarter, I knew it was over. They had to rush him."
The Factor's reputation for speed allowed him to duel 45-1 pacesetter Sirocco Strike on the backside before he took a narrow lead heading toward the stretch turn under jockey Martin Garcia. The Factor owns the track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs.
"I guess they wanted to press us early," Baffert said. "You never know what jockeys are going to do; it's always the long shot that gets you. They have nothing to lose, so they just go for it."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith waited patiently aboard Amazombie in fifth place before going four-wide into the stretch and taking the lead just past the eighth pole. Using a left-handed whip, Smith coaxed Amazombie to the finish line ahead of Baffert's other horse, Irrefutable.
"He deserves his chance now in the Breeders' Cup," Smith said. "He's got tactical speed, a great turn of foot, and a race at Churchill Downs could really set up well for him."
Bill Spawr, who trains and co-owns Amazombie, said if his 5-year-old gelding comes out of the race in good condition he'll be pointed toward the BC Sprint on Nov. 5. If not, Amazombie would stay at Santa Anita for the California Cup Sprint on Oct. 29.
"The Factor is a great horse, but we were confident coming into this race," co-owner Thomas Sanford said. "He always seems to run good as an underdog. We knew somebody had to go with The Factor and we were glad to see (Sirocco Strike) out there with him."
Amazombie has not been worse than third in his last 11 races. Spawr won the Ancient Title for the third time and first since 2006.
The Factor had been a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby until he finished seventh as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby. He was found to have a hairline fracture of a hind ankle that knocked him off the Triple Crown trail. The colt was sidelined for 4½ months, then returned to win the Grade 1 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar in August.
Baffert said The Factor would still run in the Breeders' Cup. He had been tabbed as the early 5-1 favorite for the Sprint in Las Vegas future book wagering.
"The next race will be the most important one," he said.
In the Oak Tree Mile, Jeranimo ran one mile on the turf in 1:32.61 and paid $11.20, $4.40 and $3.20 as the 9-5 second choice. It was Garcia's third winner on the 10-race card.
Mr. Commons, the 4-5 favorite, returned $2.60 and $2.40. John Johny Jack paid $3.60 to show.
Trainer John Shirreffs said Mr. Commons jumped forward in the gate and banged his head.
"He didn't break as sharp as we would have liked. He ended up spotting them a couple lengths," he said, adding that a decision on whether to run in the Breeders' Cup would be made later.
Jeranimo returned to the turf for the first time since finishing eighth in the Pacific Classic on Del Mar's artificial surface in August.
Mike Pender brushed off any decision on Jeranimo running in the Breeders' Cup.
"We'll let the horse tell us what to do," he said. "This horse is kind of tricky. Sometimes he'll lay an egg on you if you're not watching him close. Other times he'll give you a race like today."
In the $65,000 Swingtime Stakes, All Star Heart defeated Victoryasecret by one length for 79-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. Ridden by Brice Blanc, All Star Heart ran one mile on the turf in 1:34.39 and paid $7 to win.