LATE RUNNING DESERT STONE RALLIES TO WIN GRADE II, $200,000 SAN GABRIEL STAKES BY A NECK UNDER FRANCO; TRAINED BY BALTAS, IRISH-BRED 5-YEAR-OLD GETS 1 1/8 MILES ON TURF IN 1:47.63
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2020)–Idle since May 27, Irish-bred Desert Stone rallied from last to win Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes by a neck under Geovanni Franco. Trained by Richard Baltas, Desert Stone, a 5-year-old full horse, got a mile and one eighth on turf in 1:47.63.
Breaking from the rail, Desert Stone ducked inward leaving the gate, but was quickly into stride and saved ground behind a well-bunched field that was headed by Overdue, who folded around the far turn. Desert Stone appeared full of run under a long hold turning for home and with Franco biding his time, angled out four-wide an eighth of a mile out and outran favored Cleopatra’s Strike for the money late.
“I could see everyone bunching up and I knew the pace was pretty slow, but my horse was just waiting for me to turn him loose, so I didn’t worry about it,” said Franco, who won last year’s San Gabriel with Next Shares, who was also trained by Baltas. “We expected him to run good today and I was very happy with the way he ran from off the pace. I’ve worked him a lot and he likes me and I like him.”
Most recently ninth in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on May 27, Desert Stone, who registered his first stakes win today, was off at 7-1 in a field of seven older horses and paid $16.20, $5.60 and $4.00.
“This is kind of a different horse,” said Baltas. “You can’t force this horse, he has a mind of his own. When he wants to run, he’ll run and Geovanni lets him do his thing in the beginning. He told me today, ‘If I can get him out, we’re gonna be tough.’ He had been blocked several times in the stretch before.”
Owned by Zayat Stables, LLC, Desert Stone picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $332,662. He now has three wins from 16 career starts.
Fifth early, but close to the pace, Cleopatra’s Strike rallied three-wide turning for home, made the lead between horses, but couldn’t go with the winner late, finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of Majestic Eagle. Off as the 6-5 favorite with Abel Cedillo, Cleopatra’s Strike paid $3.00 and $2.40.
Majestic Eagle, who sat a close second to Overdue early, took the lead leaving the quarter pole and proved third best on the day, finishing a half length in front Chosen Vessel. Off at 5-1 with Rafael Bejarano, Majestic Eagle paid $3.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 24.26, 48.18, 1:11.65 and 1:35.98.
Racing resumes at Santa Anita with an eight-race program on Sunday. First post time is at 12:30 p.m. and admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.