“When Kent's on, he's magic.” So said trainer Vladimir Cerin in reference to Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux following his upset victory aboard Cerin's Top of the Game in Saturday's $70,000 Comma to the Top Stakes at Santa Anita. Owned by longtime Cerin client David Wilson and idle since Feb. 10, Top of the Game coasted to a 4 ¼ length win while getting a flat mile in 1:37.09.
Seemingly hustled by Desormeaux from his number two post position, Top of the Game was quickly taken in hand as the three outside horses, El Huerfano, Curlin Rules and Avanti Bello dueled for the early lead. With his mount settled and a hot pace to stalk, Desormeaux had a ton of horse heading into the far turn, scraped paint at the rail just to the inside of El Huerfano five sixteenths of a mile from home and had a commanding seven length advantage leaving the three sixteenths pole.
“That was incredible, he's a nice horse,” said Desormeaux, who has ridden Top of the Game in his last six starts and is currently in second place in the Santa Anita jockey standings with 14 wins. “He's stamping himself as a signature handicap horse. I didn't expect that kind of a run off a layoff.”
Off at 6-1 in a field of seven 3-year-olds and up, Top of the Game paid $15.20, $6.20 and $3.40. A second condition allowance winner in his last start, Top of the Game, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Desert Party, notched his first stakes win in the Comma to the Top and his fourth overall win from 12 starts. With the winner's check of $43,800, he increased his earnings to $167,420.
“For him to improve, and he had to improve to be able to beat these horse, is impressive,” said Wilson, who's known to millions of Southlanders via his “You won't get a lemon at Toyota of Orange,” radio commercials. “I never expected Kent to come out of the gate the way he did today and then he kinda took back, squeezed through on the rail and just ran away from them. It was impressive…He beat a couple of good horses today and he coasted that last eighth.”
Idle since running sixth behind stablemate Arrogate in the Group I Dubai World Cup March 25, Bob Baffert's multi-millionaire Hoppertunity was last early, swung five-wide turning for home and nailed stablemate Irish Freedom by a nose for the place.
The second choice with Flavien Prat at 9-5, Hoppertunity paid $3.40 and $2.40.
Irish Freedom, who rallied from off the pace while four-wide at the top of the stretch, never threatened the winner and finished 4 ¼ lengths in front of Curlin Rules. Off as the 6-5 favorite, Irish Freedom paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.53, 47.11, 1:11.63 and 1:24.01.
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