In his initial voyage into graded stakes waters, trainer Phil D'Amato's rapidly improving Ransom the Moon rallied from off the pace to take Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita by 2 ¼ lengths. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Ontario, Canadian-bred Ransom the Moon got 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.12.
Fifth and full of run midway around the far turn, Ransom the Moon rallied extremely wide turning for home and finished up like a top sprinter.
“Last time, he was really high before the race, with the pony, going to the gate and he didn't stand well in the gate either,” said Prat, who guided him to an easy allowance win at the same distance here on April 30. “He won, but he's definitely improved a lot from that last race.
“He was much better today. He was more focused, he broke well and then he settled really nicely down the backside and around the turn. Once I asked, he made a nice move.”
Off at 7-2 in a field of eight 3-year-olds and up, Ransom the Moon, a 5-year-old full horse by Malibu Moon, broke from post position six and paid $9.80, $5.20 and $3.20.
Owned by Agave Racing Stable and Jeffry Wilke, Ransom the Moon, in his first-ever stakes start, collected $120,000 for the win, boosting his earnings to $290,829.
Primarily a turf horse before making his first start for D'Amato on April 30, Ransom the Moon improved his overall record to 17-4-5-1.
“Every time I put him on the dirt, he trained like a good horse,” said D'Amato. “More often than not with turf horses, they'll train well on the dirt, but in the afternoon, they get lost out there. This horse is just getting better and better. Today, he sat behind those horses and kicked away. He won the right way, like a good horse should.”
Head and head early, Moe Candy proved second best while finishing a half-length in front of favored Lord Simba. Off at 11-1 with Santiago Gonzalez, he paid $10.40 and $5.40.
Breaking from post seven, Lord Simba was part of the early pace brigade and proved third best on the day, finishing 3 ¾ lengths in front of late running Kobe's Back. Off at 8-5 with Martin Garcia, Lord Simba paid $2.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.34, 44.90 and 1:08.88.
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