FAVORED JOHN JOHNY JAK NIPS 43-1 ASSESSMENT BY NOSE IN LURE DUEL

ARCADIA, Calif. (Nov. 5, 2011) – It took the length of the stretch for favored John Johny Jak to get past determined 43-1 longshot Assessment, but the 3-2 choice arrived in the shadow of the wire Saturday to take Santa Anita’s $70,150 Lure Stakes by a nose.

Under a vigorous ride by Victor Espinoza, John Johny Jak ran the one-mile distance on turf in 1:35.44 to build upon a third-place finish behind Breeders’ Cup Mile competitors Jeranimo and Mr. Commons in the Grade II Oak Tree Mile on Oct. 8.

“I thought it was going to be easy at the top of the stretch,” said Espinoza. “I let him open up, but the horse on the inside was game and kept coming back to stay right with me. I had to calculate my timing right at the wire.”

Leroy’s Dynameaux finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind the game runner-up, who had been campaigning in the state of Washington and British Columbia, Canada, before shipping to Santa Anita for the Lure. The winner paid $5, $3.40 and $2.60. Assessment, a 7-year-old gelding ridden by Daniel Vergara, paid $25.20 and $9.20. The show price on Leroy’s Dynameaux, with Alonso Quinonez aboard, was $4.

Assessment took the lead at the outset with John Johny Jak in close pursuit. He cruised through fractions of 23.80, 48.89, 1:12.22 and 1:23.92 before finally being overtaken.

A 4-year-old ridgling who raced in Florida where he had been bred, John Johny Jak joined the stable of Kristin Mulhall in July and has blossomed under her care for Kretz Racing. After losing Del Mar’s Wickerr Stakes by a nose, he won the Harry F. Brubaker at Del Mar prior to his solid showing in the Oak Tree Mile.

“He ran super,” Mulhall said in the winner’s circle Saturday. “I’m just happy we’re here. It definitely was a battle. He (John Johny Jak) is the kind of horse that, when he gets head and head, at times he’ll pull himself up a little bit. He likes to be able to chase after a horse, and it looks like Victor had to work pretty hard on him.”

Mulhall said the bay ridgling’s next start likely would be in Hollywood Park’s Grade II Citation Handicap on Nov. 26. With the Lure’s winning purse of $42,090, John Johny Jak raised his earnings to $284,799 from an overall record of 8-5-2 in 23 career starts.

Santa Anita concludes its 24-day Autumn Meet on Sunday with a 10-race program that commences at 12 noon. The 42nd running of the Grade II, $150,000 Las Palmas Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf goes as the ninth race. -30-