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HIGH-WEIGHTED FIRE WITH FIRE MAKES LATE RUN TO WIN GRADE II, $200,000 CHARLES WHITTINGHAM STAKES AS BAZE ALTERS TACTICS & GUIDES DRYSDALE TRAINEE TO NECK WIN
RUN FOR THE FIRST TIME AT SANTA ANITA, DRYSDALE WINS WHITTINGHAM FOR SEVENTH TIME; SINGLE WINNING PICK SIX TICKET PURCHASED IN LAS VEGAS PAYS $113,530
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 24, 2014)—Widely considered to be a front-running sort, trainer Neil Drysdale’s Fire With Fire was taken in-hand off the pace and came roaring through the lane to win Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes by a neck under Tyler Baze, getting a mile and a quarter on grass in 2:00.92.
High-weighted at 124 pounds, Fire With Fire, a 6-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, was in sixth position with a quarter mile to run as eventual runner-up Segway, with Gary Stevens up, pressed or set modest fractions of 23.42, 46.78, 1:11.31 and 1:35.75.
“I can do whatever I want with him, he’s very classy,” said Baze. “It’s a confidence you get with horses. I know he’s going to be there when I ask him and he’s really shown me, from last year to this year, that he likes being out there on the lead.
“I thought I would be laying third today to Segway and Bright Thought, but it just didn’t work out that way…When Quick Casablanca came up on our outside, it helped move him along even more. It’s so nice to ride a horse like him, who’s so honest.”
Second, beaten a head by Whittingham favorite Quick Casablanca after setting the pace in the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles Last Tycoon on April 25, Fire With Fire spotted five pounds to all but one horse (seventh place finisher Dr Action) in the field of nine 3-year-olds and up.
“I was worried about the weight and so was Neil,” said owner David Heerensperger. “Not only that, we had to go a little further today. My God, this horse is getting better with age. Tyler rode him perfectly.”
A winner of three out of his last four races, Fire With Fire improved his record to 32-7-8-5. With the winner’s share of $120,000, he increased his earnings to $655,354.
Despite the fact he was narrowly beaten by the favorite last time out and was a winner of the Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes two back on March 22, Fire With Fire was off at odds of 7-1 and paid $16.60, $6.60 and $2.60.
“Obviously, we discovered that he doesn’t need to be on the lead,” said Drysdale, who won the Whittingham, which was run for the first time on Saturday at Santa Anita, for the seventh time. “The race set up very well. When Quick Casablanca came at him, he went with him. Tyler gave him a lovely ride, didn’t he? The horse runs for him.”
Segway was lapped on pacesetter Bright Thought going to the far turn, took command leaving the three furlong pole and had a 2 ½ length advantage on the winner with an eighth of a mile to run and although he was able to hold off the late charge of favored Quick Casablanca, he couldn’t match the winner late and finished second, a neck in front of “Quick.”
The second choice at 3-1, Segway paid $5.40 and $2.80.
“It was a tough beat,” noted an understated Stevens.
Although it appeared on paper that the Whittingham would be run plenty fast early, the pace turned out to be moderate and Quick Casablanca, ridden by Joe Talamo, had a tall order from next-to-last at the quarter pole.
“I was further back than I wanted to be today,” said Talamo. “We got squeezed at the start and it was hard to catch them. I thought the added distance would help us today, but that’s horse racing.
The solid 8-5 favorite on the strength of his Last Tycoon win, Quick Casablanca paid $2.40 to show while finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Irish Surf.
There was one winning ticket in Saturday’s Pick Six. Purchased in Las Vegas, it paid $113,539.
First post time for a nine-race card at Santa Anita on Sunday is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.