With jockey Flavien Prat getting his second graded stakes win of the day, Red Baron's Barn and Rancho Temescal's River Boyne just held off a hard-charging and unlucky Desert Stone by a head to win Wednesday's Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes on the turf for 3-year-olds on Santa Anita's opening day program in Arcadia, Calif. The two Irish-breds were followed across the finish by Combatant, a half-length back in third, with Fight On another half length behind him in fourth in the field of 10 following the scratch of Sejo.
Trained by Jeff Mullins, River Boyne was the heavy favorite after narrowly losing the G1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in his last start. The Dandy Man colt paid $2.80 to win after completing the mile on firm turf in 1:34.52.
“He's solid,” said Mullins. “You know when you lead him over here he's going to give it you. He might not get it every time but he's going to give it you. I thought Flavien might have had him (River Boyne) a little too far back but he (Prat) knows more of what he's got under him than I do.”
Prat, who earlier won the G1 La Brea Stakes on Spiced Perfection, allowed River Boyne to settle in near the back of the field as long shot Snazzy Dresser dashed to the lead under Edwin Maldonado. Snazzy Dresser set quick fractions of :22.68 for the opening quarter mile, :46.14 for the half and 1:10.21 for six furlongs.
Prat put River Boyne in gear approaching the far turn and rallied wide into the stretch. The Irish-bred looked to have the race in hand in deep stretch when Desert Stone came flying from last to River Boyne's outside under Geovanni Franco after encountering traffic problems in mid-stretch. Combatant and Jose Ortiz accelerated between horses to River Boyne's inside, with the wire arriving just in time for the Mullins trainer to post his seventh win since coming to the U.S. as a maiden late in 2017.
“I had a great trip,” said Prat. “He broke well and then it was more about getting him to relax. With the mile sometimes, it's a bit tough to get him to relax. Today we had some pace, he relaxed well, made a nice move when I asked him to go and he gave everything he had to hang in there.”
Two of River Boyne's previous wins were graded stakes: the G3 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar in August and the G2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. He lost the G1 Del Mar Derby a half-length to Raging Bull after holding a length and a half lead at the top of the stretch.
“We went for so many years of losing races with cheaper horses that we bred, it's just incredible to have all of these top turf horses,” said Mark Cohen, part owner of Red Baron's Barn with his father, Jed Cohen. “My Dad doesn't take any of this for granted, but I guess I am. This horse is so consistent, he just wants to win.”
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