The first weekend of May is widely known for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, as well as the respective undercards at Churchill Downs, but it was business as usual in Arcadia, California this weekend despite the focus being in Louisville.
The Grade III Precisionist Stakes headlined Saturday’s 11-race card. The event for three-year olds an upward was run at a mile and a sixteenth over the main track and attracted a field of 8 after the scratch of Peter Miller trained Appealing Tale. The pace was honest early, which rewarded the patience of jockey Flavien Prat. Prat gave a beautiful mid pack ride to eventual winner Catch A Flight to take the lion's share of the $100.000 purse. The five-year old son of Giant’s Causeway went off the 7-5 favorite and held off a strong run from four-year old Sammy Mandeville and veteran rider Alex Solis. Motown Men completed the trifecta that paid $110.40 on a $2 wager.
The $75,000 Desert Code Stakes was also run on Saturday. Named for the long shot winner of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the event, run at six and a half furlongs for three-year olds, saw a field of 7 go to the post. 9-5-favorite Richard’s Boy ran down Patrick Biancone trained Diamond Majesty to capture his first stakes victory in a time of 1:14.61. Diamond Majesty nearly gave them “the slip” in another excellent ride from Flavien Prat, but could not get to the wire in time. The Bob Hess, Jr conditioned Perfectly Majestic came with a strong late run to finish a hard charging third.
The Grade II Honeymoon Handicap run at a mile and an eighth over the beautiful Santa Anita turf course headlined Sunday’s card. A field of 9 three-year old fillies broke from the gate for the purse of $200,000. The pace was strong as they went 110.4 for six furlongs setting things up for Spanish Queen. The California-bred daughter of Tribal Rule looked like a winner every step of the way and appears to have a nice future ahead of her for conditioner Richard Baltas. Doug O’ Neill trained Sharla Rae ran a solid second at 48-1 and Spirit of Xian closed out the trifecta at 7-2. The winner paid $8.00, $4.60 and $3.80. Brice Blanc got the win with a ground saving ride on the three-year old filly.
One of the day’s highlights was a standing ovation given by the Southern California crowd, after Kentucky Derby winning jockey Victor Espinoza won aboard Two Taps in the day’s third race. Saturday marked Espinoza’s second consecutive win in the “Run for the Roses” with the first place effort aboard American Pharoah, and may have stamped his induction into the Hall of Fame. It was a truly great moment.