JOEL ROSARIO, GIFT BOX, WINNER: “He ran really well. He kind of broke a little slow, but then got it going a little bit. I got to the first turn and he was in front, and he was able to keep on going from that position and take it all the way.”
TYLER BAZE, KING ABNER, SECOND: “He ran great. He’s been training great and he ran like that. That’s a monster we had to run against. I’m very proud of my horse. The race pretty much played out how I thought it would. I thought I was the speed of the race and he had to send pretty hard to get up inside me. Once everybody else left us alone, I made it a two horse race.”
JOHN SADLER, GIFT BOX, WINNER: “He trained with a lot of enthusiasm for this race. If you look at his last couple of works, 11 and four is like the old days of 10 and one, and he’s been galloping out well in his works, so we thought we had him pretty ready.
“He was fighting the track at the Stephen Foster (June 15, 2019 at Churchill Downs). He was going against horses that trained there. He has run against quality horses wherever he has run, so today we said let him run a little more free and we had a good result.
“We’ve been ducking around the weather, but everybody’s in the same boat. We had some days maybe we couldn’t do quite as much as we wanted, so you’re a little nervous off a layoff, but he didn’t disappoint us.”
Asked if he expected to be in front: “I was kind of hoping so from the two post. I didn’t want to suck back out of there. We talked about lying first or second. He’s always going to be in the first flight so it went really well and he looked so good at the end. That’s what really made me feel good. I felt really good with him coming around the far turn, he looked relaxed, sharp and he was running really well coming down the lane.”
“I hope we can go for a Santa Anita Handicap (March 7) double. We have a lot of choices with these handicap horses. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and maybe run him back east or maybe take Higher Power back there. We’re blessed to have two or three horses in this division, so we’re going to kind of mix and match . . . we’re going to be judicious.”
PHIL D’AMATO, KING ABNER, SECOND: “My horse tried his heart out; he ran a big race. John (Sadler) just has his horse in excellent form.”
KOSTA HRONIS, GIFT BOX, WINNER: “We are going to let (Gift Box) decide where he wants to go. John has done such a fantastic job in managing him, so we will let them decide and go to the next race whenever it is.
“He’s running this year (at 7) – we’re looking at the big picture and the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll let John manage him all year and space things out. He’s seven, so he needs some spacing. We’ll take real good care of him, and obviously he can run really good off a layoff, so there’s no rush to keep him busy. We’ll just let him be the pro that he is.
“This year he’s 20 pounds heavier and looks a little bigger and stronger. He’s been working out really well. I felt pretty confident coming in, because just like last year he came in off a big layoff, and it doesn’t seem to bother him. If he’s sharp and ready, we’ll try to keep him that way.”
NOTES: The winning owner is Hronis Racing ,LLC