Longshot A Toast to You was up to win Saturday’s $100,000 California Flag Handicap by a half length under Mario Gutierrez, providing trainer Peter Miller with his third win of the day as the 4-year-old gelding by Tribal Rule negotiated the 6 ½ furlong hillside turf course in 1:11.88.
Fifth, beaten two lengths down the hill in a $40,000 claiming affair Oct. 5, A Toast to You was winless from eight starts this year and was ridden for the first time by Gutierrez.
“We decided to take a shot,” said Miller. “We got beat for 40, but the horse was doing good and I spoke to Mr. Barber (Gary, owner) and I said, ‘Even if we run second or third, it’s a big payday. The horse is doing well, let’s take a shot.’ Gary’s a gamer. He said ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
With Atta Boy Pete and 3-1 second choice Strong Wind carving out fractions of 22.12, 43.16 and 1:05.98, A Toast to You was fifth, three lengths from the lead as the field crossed the dirt at the lane and were able to overhaul 5-2 favorite Ain’t No Other 30 yards from the wire to gain the win.
“We tried to put a little pressure on early, but he (Julien Leparoux, on pace-setting Atta Boy Slew) blew by us so we didn’t have any choice,” said Gutierrez. “Peter told me to get a nice position and to save ground…and that if I had to make a late run, I was going to have to go wide…It’s easy when everything goes your way, and this horse is easy to handle.”
Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber, A Toast to You was off at 18-1 and paid $39.80, $15.80 and $8.80. With the winner’s share of $60,000, A Toast to You increased his earnings to $352,872. He now has a win, a second and two thirds from six hillside attempts. His overall mark stands at 20-6-3-3.
Favored Ain’t No Other got a similar stalking trip under Rafael Bejarano and finished second, 1 ¾ lengths in front of late-running Tiz a Minister and paid $4.80 and $3.00.
“My horse tried, he was running well and he wasn’t tired,” said Bejarano. “He gave me a big kick, but that other horse was just flying.”
Tiz a Minister, off at 11-1 with Martin Garcia up, finished a nose in front of Circa’sgoldengear with Victor Espinoza and paid $6.80 to show.
With a carryover of $230,200 priming the Pick Six pump, Saturday’s total Pick Six pool reached $1,264,733. There were 108 winning Pick Six tickets, each worth $7,264.80.
Santa Anita will present a nine-race card on Sunday. The $70,000 Uniformity Stakes, carded as race eight, will serve as the afternoon’s featured event.
First post time is at 1 p.m.