Bourbon Bay strengthened his lucrative attachment to Santa Anita’s
Camino Real turf course Sunday by winning the historic San Juan
Capistrano Handicap, but it took longer for the stewards to separate the
even-money favorite and Eastern invader Eagle Poise than it did to run
the nation’s longest graded turf stakes at 1 ¾ miles which is
traditionally contested on the winter/spring meet’s closing day.
After the pair crossed the finish line in perfect sync, another six
minutes was required to determine that Bourbon Bay, a one-half length
winner of the event in 2010, had indeed triumphed in the 73rd running of
the Grade II, $150,000 marathon run in 2:45.70. It was that close
before a rapt crowd of 16,034.
Upon becoming the sixth two-time winner of the historic stakes race
inaugurated in 1935, Bourbon Bay recorded his seventh win in nine starts
over the course. He has won a single grass race elsewhere. His earnings
from his sixth Grade II victory over the layout reached $607,800 with
the $90,000 winner’s share compared to $968,536 overall in 26 career
Bourbon Bay, handled by the meet’s leading rider, Joel Rosario, and
Eagle Poise, with former Santa Anita mainstay Alex Solis aboard, were
content to remain at the rear as the field of six loped through early
fractions of 49.70 and 1:12.92 with Hog’s Hollow showing the way.
“I was probably too far back, but I was never worried about it,”
Rosario said afterward. “He’s a great horse and he can handle this
distance well. It was pretty close. Right in the middle of the race, I
thought they were probably going a little too quick for the distance. I
never panicked and didn’t try to make a move early.”
Eagle Poise got the jump on Bourbon Bay with his rally and gained the
lead in deep stretch. Bourbon Bay, meanwhile, kept coming. And coming.
Yet it was a little too close for comfort for the 6-year-old gelding’s
Hall of Fame trainer, Neil Drysdale.
“I didn’t think we won,” said Drysdale. “I have to be honest; I
thought we’d been nipped, but I’m very happy.” His disbelief was
extensive. “I actually thought he hadn’t gotten there today, I really
did,” Drysdale continued. “I was pleasantly surprised when they put his
number up. He’s a lovely horse.”
Drysdale acknowledged surprise that David and Jill Heerensperger’s
son of Sligo Bay was so far back early. “What did I really think?” he
responded with a question. “‘What are you doing way back there?’ The
leaders must have been stopping,” he went on. “But anyway, he got the
job done. . .just. He’s a lovely old horse. He tries very hard. He’ll
get some time off. This was a very demanding race.”
Harrods Creek, with Mike Smith in the saddle, wound up third, 1 ½
lengths behind the first pair and 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Dhaamer, the 5-2
second choice ridden by Rafael Bejarano. It was an additional 20 lengths
back to pacesetter Hog’s Hollow. The trailer, another 8 ¼ lengths back,
was Bonfire Knight, who had pressed the early pace.
Runner-up Eagle Poise was the only other entrant other than Bourbon
Bay with a graded stakes victory to his credit after having won the
Group III Valedictory Stakes at 1 ¾ miles over Woodbine Race Course’s
synthetic surface last December.
“He ran an awesome race,” said Heather Craig, assistant to trainer H.
Graham Motion, following Eagle Poise’s effort on Sunday. “He ran,
really, really hard. Alex (Solis) gave him a great ride, but that’s the
way it happens sometimes.” Said Solis, “I had a great trip, got it in
gear at the three-eighths pole; that other horse just came a little
Bourbon Bay paid $4, $2.80 and $2.10. Eagle Poise, the third choice
at 5-1, returned $4.20 and $3.20. The show price on Harrods Creek was
The victory in the San Juan Capistrano was the fourth for Drysdale.
It was the first for Rosario. While Bourbon Bay remained perfect in his
two engagements, he brought his overall career record to 9-5-4 in his 26