With the $1.5 million XpressBet Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 2 positioned as the ultimate objective, California-bred Points Offthebench assured his connections he'll be in the starting lineup with a rousing half length victory Saturday in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, covering six furlongs in 1:08 flat while providing trainer Tim Yakteen his first-ever Santa Anita Grade I victory.
The lone Cal-bred in a field of seven that included last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint champ and this year's Santa Anita Derby winner, Points Offthebench was well in-hand, six lengths off the lead in third position leaving the three-eighths pole, reeled in pacesetting Distinctiv Passion inside the furlong marker and held off the late charge of 7-5 favorite Goldencents and Rafael Bejarano at the wire.
“He's very talented,” said Smith, who picked up his second graded stakes win of the day and his fourth overall. “Maldonado (aboard Distinctiv Passion) looked like he was getting away from us and I wanted to try and time it with this horse because if you hit the front too soon, he pulls up a little.
“He has some turn of foot, and I hit the front too soon, but he still held on. He pulled up nice and happy, well within himself. He's a very talented horse.”
Owned by Don Crevier and Charles Martin, Points Offthebench paid $11.20, $4.60 and $3.00.
With the winner's share of $150,000, the son of Benchmark increased his earnings to $514,940 and improved his career record to 8-6-1-1.
A winner of the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes in his most recent start July 28 on Del Mar's Polytrack, Points Offthebench had three works at Santa Anita coming into today.
“I would say, yeah, this is the biggest win of my career,” said Yakteen, a former assistant to Bob Baffert and the late Charlie Whittingham, who is married to HRTV stalwart Millie Ball. “This was a tough, tough race. This is special.”
Trained by Doug O'Neill, Goldencents was second to Points Offthebench in the Crosby and was then second in the seven furlong, Grade II Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 25.
“We were very pleased with what he did today,” said O'Neill assistant Leandro Mora. “It looks like, according to our owners, that we aren't going to stay sprinting. We thought we could sprint but the talk is that we are going to keep him at a mile…Even Rafael (Bejarano) said, ‘Please, let's go longer.' He's got a great kick. The Breeders' Cup Mile (Nov. 2) is next, definitely.”
Goldencents, who took blinkers off today, was well back early and closed with a rush, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Distinctive Passion.
Goldencents paid $3.20 and $2.40.
The longest shot in the field at 18-1, Distinctive Passion carved out splits of 21.45, 43.69 and 55.80 and stayed well, finishing third, 4 ½ lengths clear of Gonna Fly Now. He paid $5.40 to show.
There is a Pick Six carryover into Sunday at Santa Anita of $156,250, and it is expected the total Sunday pool could exceed $1 million.
The Pick Six will be comprised of races four through nine, with first post time at 1 p.m.
See the full chart here.
SANTA ANITA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP QUOTES
MIKE SMITH, POINTS OFFTHEBENCH, WINNER: “I thought he could win today. Thinking it and doing it are two different things, but I did think it. All we had left was to do it. He's very talented. Maldonado (on Distinctiv Passion) looked like he was getting away from us and I wanted to try and time it with this horse because if you hit the front too soon, he pulls up a little. Then I looked up and he was going a whole lot easier than he was supposed to be. He has some turn of foot, and I hit the front too soon, but he still held on. He pulled up nice and happy, well within himself. He's a very talented horse.”
JOSE VALDIVIA JR., TRINNIBERG, 7-2 SECOND CHOICE, SEVENTH AND LAST: “What can you say? His first jump was good; after that, the race was over. I'm baffled.”
TIM YAKTEEN, POINTS OFFTHEBENCH, WINNER: “It did (set up well pace-wise) . . . The horse is quirky. I don't want him to hit the lead too soon, because he'll wait on horses. I think Rafael (Bejarano, who rode Goldencents) is very well aware of that and he came wide with Goldencents, who was coming late, but we had inherited the lead.
“Yes (we're going on to the Breeders' Cup Sprint). This is my first Grade I win at Santa Anita and only the second in my career (first was the Bing Crosby at Del Mar July 28). They're not too hard to count. The horse is a push-button (type). Horses like that, they make you look good.
“I would say, yeah, this is the biggest win of my career. This was a tough, tough race. This is special.”
LEANDRO MORA, ASSISTANT TO DOUG O'NEILL, GOLDENCENTS, 7-5 FAVORITE, SECOND: “We were very pleased with what he did today. It looks like, according to our owners, that we aren't going to stay sprinting. We thought we could sprint but the talk is that we are going to keep him at a mile. It doesn't seem like he is a sprinter. We tried, but he is trying to tell us that he is not. He can run everywhere we put him, but he's not a sprinter. Even Rafael (Bejarano) said, ‘please, let's go longer.' He's got a great kick. The Breeders' Cup Mile is next, definitely.”
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