Longshot Iron Rob made the lead a quarter mile from home and went on to a decisive 1 ½ length victory over heavily favored Denman's Call, providing veteran jockey Stewart Elliott with his first-ever Santa Anita stakes win in Sunday's $75,000 San Pedro Stakes. Trained by George Papaprodomou, Florida-bred Iron Rob covered six furlongs in 1:09.05.
Best known as the regular rider of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones, Elliott related that he liked what he had under him at the top of the stretch.
“He came away from there and I had a lot of horse, he made me feel confident,” said Elliott. “I thought that Denman's Call was going to have to be running to get us, because I knew I had some horse as long as he responded like I thought he would, and he did. I had a good hold of him and he was doing it easy.”
A winner of the 6 ½ furlong Baffle Stakes, which was switched from turf to dirt here on Feb. 21, Iron Rob was off at 9-1 in a field of six sophomores and paid $21.80, $4.60 and $3.00. Owned by Kretz Racing, LLC, Iron Rob, a Florida-bred colt by Twirling Candy, improved his overall record to 10-3-2-0 and with the winner's share of $46,800, increased his earnings to $157,320.
“I thought he would run really well today, he ran really great last time, too,” said Papaprodromou, who then addressed the fact that Iron Rob was vanned off immediately following his win in the Baffle Stakes, creating some doubts as to his status for the San Pedro. “It was sad to see him vanned off after his last race, but Santiago (Gonzalez, jockey) wanted to be careful when he felt him take a few bad steps.
“He was playing it safe. The main thing is that we're here. He was fine, but he got heavy and tired and just took a few bad steps. I think we'll head into graded stakes now. Why not?”
Triple Crown nominated, trainer Doug O'Neill's Denman's Call came off a good third place finish behind undefeated Nyquist in the Grade II, seven furlong San Vicente Stakes Feb. 15 and was hammered down to 2-5 in the wagering. Ridden by Flavien Prat, he appeared to have dead aim on the winner turning for home but proved second best, paying $2.20 and $2.10.
“He got a little green down the lane,” said Steve Rothblum, assistant to O'Neill. “It was only his third career start so it's not the end of the world. He can run quite a bit. We'll see how he is in the morning and go from there. There's no reason to panic, that's for sure.”
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Mt Veeder rallied from last early to get third money, finishing 2 ¼ lengths back of the favorite. Off at 3-1, Mt Veeder paid $2.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.91, 44.55 and 56.53.
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