Under ultra-confident handling, heavily favored Stormy Liberal took Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Daytona Stakes by a measured neck under Norberto Arroyo, Jr. and thus notched his fourth consecutive stakes win over Santa Anita’s unique hillside turf course. Trained by Peter Miller and owned by Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, he negotiated 6 ½ furlongs in 1:12.43.
Claimed by Miller out of a hillside turf win for $40,000 six starts back on Oct. 16, Stormy Liberal was unhurried early from his outside post position in a field of four, but was lapped on Ambitious Brew leaving the quarter pole and ran the length of the stretch while well in-hand under Arroyo.
With no show wagering, Stormy Liberal was the prohibitive 1-2 favorite and paid $3.00 and $2.10.
“We had a great start and I was only concerned about Mike Smith on Ambitious Brew,” said Arroyo, who’s been aboard the 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding in his last five starts. “It worked out well and my horse put himself right into the race. I had them from the get-go and I knew I had more horse than (Smith) the whole time.”
With all seven of his career wins (from 20 starts) coming over the hillside course, Stormy Liberal picked up $90,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $432,070.
“David Lanzman suggested we claim this horse and we’ve just been rolling on the good times ever since,” said Hartunian. “He’s found his niche coming down the hill, that’s for sure. Norberto had a good hold of him. He’s gonna give me a heart attack making it that close! It’s a great day and Santa Anita is the greatest place in the world.”
Trained by Marty Jones, California-bred Ambitious Brew inherited the lead at the rail when early leader Blackjackcat opted to ease back a bit leaving the half mile pole. Off at 9-5, Ambitious Brew paid $2.20 to place.
Fractions on the race were 22.40, 44.15 and 1:06.25.a
Source: Santa Anita Park