Michael House's Big John B showed his old form when returning to the dirt to win Sunday's Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup by 2 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita. The 7-year-old son of Hard Spun covered the 1 1/2-mile course over a fast track in 2:28.79 for trainer Phil D'Amato, marking the trainer's third win on the afternoon.
“This horse has been training so well,” said jockey Rafael Bejarano. “I was sad with the way his last two races turned out, but he's always training well, but the turf wasn't always to his liking. He doesn't like soft turf. So, we decided to try the dirt again and thought, 'why not?' It was a really exciting win.”
In typical style, Big John B relaxed at the back of the seven-horse field early on, just galloping through the first mile of the race. On the front end, Ike Walker broke the sharpest while Lieutenant Colonel, riding a two-race win streak, pressed the early pace from second along the outside. After a quarter-mile in :23.94, John's Success took over the leading spot to take the top trio through a half in :48.01, maintaining his lead until the top of the lane.
Mike Smith moved on Lieutenant Colonel at the head of the stretch, taking the lead briefly. Class Leader was running on well from the middle of the pack and took over that lead, but Big John B was finishing with huge strides up the center of the track and passed that rival easily, drawing away to win by about 2 1/4 lengths. Class Leader held on for second, and Blingo got up to nose out Lieutenant Colonel for third.
“I really wasn't worried (about him being that far back), because when he won that mile and a half on the dirt at Del Mar (Cougar Handicap on July 24), he did the same thing,” said D'Amato. “He just kind of waited to find his stride, slowly moved up on the back side by the half-mile pole. To me it was just a matter of whether he was going to get out or not around the turn. Once he finally got him in the clear, he showed him a big kick.”
Bred in Florida by Brylynn Farm, Big John B was a $30,000 2-year-old purchase at the Ocala Breeders' June sale. Now with 15 wins from 40 lifetime starts, the gelding has career earnings of nearly $850,000.
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