The Pamplemousse turned in a dominating performance over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface Saturday, winning the Sham Stakes easily by six lengths in a wire-to-wire victory that stamped him as a serious contender for the upcoming Santa Anita Derby and perhaps the Kentucky Derby. Florida shipper Take the Points finished second after chasing the winner throughout, with Mr. Hot Stuff third and Bourbon Bay fourth in the nine-furlong event that attracted a field of 10 3-year-old colts and geldings.
The Pamplemousse, owned by a partnership that includes Alex Solis Jr., son of the winning rider, is trained by Julio Canani. The colt's name, which means grapefruit in French, comes from a Del Mar, Calif., restaurant whose owners Jeffrey and Bill Strauss are also part of the colt's ownership team, along with Carol Bienstock and Ann Winner.
The Pamplemousse covered the distance in 1:47.86 after setting fractions of :23.08, :46.51, 1:10.29, and 1:35.09. The son of the Cherokee Run stallion Kafwain out of Comfort Zone, by Rubiano, was bred in Kentucky by Fred and Nancy Mitchell's Clarkland Farm, which sold him for $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale to a pinhooking outfit, Vision Sales. The latter sold him at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training to Alex Solis II Bloodstock for $150,000.
The Sham was The Pamplemousse's second graded stakes victory following his wire to wire win in the San Rafael Stakes Jan. 17. It was his third win overall from five starts. He began his career with a fourth place effort in a maiden sprint Oct. 4 during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, then improved to third in another maiden sprint at Hollywood Park Nov. 8. The colt broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 14 at Hollywood, then came back one month later to win the San Rafael. Off that impressive victory he was sent off the 1-2 favorite in the Sham and paid $3 for the win.
“The way he's been training I expected something like this, some kind of performance like he put out today,” said winning rider Solis, who was recently named on the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame ballot with retired jockeys Randy Romero and Eddie Maple. “It was amazing. I told Julio I've never been on a horse like this, never and I've rode some really nice horses.
“He has such a good mind and he was real relaxed the whole way. If you want to get an idea of how he'll do going a mile and a quarter, I switched to my left stick and hit him one time at the eighth pole and he just took off. He's unbelievable.”
Asked by HRTV whether this was his Derby horse, Solis replied: “This is what we all dream about, no?”
The flamboyant Canani, aged 70, a Peruvian by birth who has been training on the Southern California circuit for more than 40 years, said he hasn't caught Derby fever quite yet. When asked if he thinks The Pamplemousse will be able to settle behind horses in future races, he quickly responded: “Who cares?”
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