From the midway point on the far turn, it was “game on” in Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 City of Hope Mile (turf) as 6-5 favorite Sharp Samurai and 2-1 second choice Fly to Mars hooked up in a classic battle that resulted in Sharp Samurai winning by a scant nose under Gary Stevens, who had his stick knocked out of his hand outside the sixteenth pole. Trained by Mark Glatt, Sharp Samurai stopped the clock at 1:32.47.
“I had a great trip,” said Stevens, who was riding the 4-year-old First Samurai gelding for the ninth consecutive time. “I was just following the leaders and he was going easy. In the stretch, I pulled my stick through with my left hand, used it once, he responded and we were head and head with Flavien (Prat) and Fly to Mars.
“I went up to use it again and Flavien was coming down with his at the same time, hit my hand and I lost it way outside the sixteenth pole. It was close and the credit goes to the other horse. My horse was game, Flavien's horse was game. It was close. At the wire, I knew I won and Flavien knew I won as well. He said some words I can't repeat. I said 'You're the one who knocked the whip out of my hand, I should be the one cussing.'”
Most recently a close third in the Grade II Del Mar Mile on turf Aug. 19, Sharp Samurai, who won his fourth graded stakes today, paid $4.40, $2.60 and $2.40.
“I didn't think he won,” said Glatt. “I honestly thought the other horse got the bob. I didn't see Gary lose his stick watching it live, but when they showed the replay, I saw it.”
Glatt was then asked about the probability of running next in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
“We certainly had to have a good run today and we did,” he said. “We'll hope to be able to get in it, he deserves it.”
Owned by Red Baron's Barn, LLC, Rancho Temescal and Mark Glatt, Sharp Samurai bagged $120,000 for the win, boosting his earnings to $735,270. In notching his fifth win from six tries over the Santa Anita turf, he improved his overall mark to 14-8-2-0.
Fly to Mars, who finished 1 ½ lengths in front of the winner when last they met at Del Mar on Aug. 19, pressed the early pace, took the lead a quarter mile out and lost a heartbreaker with Sharp Samurai just to his outside and finished 2 ¼ lengths in front of a late running Ohio and paid $3.20 and $2.60.
Brazilian-bred Ohio, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, was off at 6-1 and paid $3.60 while finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Argentine-bred La Ken.
With 35-1 shot Psycho Sister leading for the first half mile, fractions on the race were 22.89, 46.26, 1:09.95 and 1:21.17.
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