Del Mar: Express Train holds off Tripoli for San Diego Handicap victory

DEL MAR — Trainer John Shirreffs has never won Del Mar’s signature race, the Grade I Pacific Classic, but this could be his year judging by Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap.

The Shirreffs-trained Express Train, ridden by Juan Hernandez, won a stretch-long duel with runner-up Tripoli and third-place finisher Royal Ship, the 8-5 favorite, for his fourth victory in 12 starts and third in four races at Del Mar.

But Shirreffs said perhaps too much is made of Express Train’s success over Del Mar’s main surface.

“Del Mar is really great, it’s a wonderful place to race, but I think the (race) circumstances more than the location make a difference,” said the man who led the great Zenyatta to a 19-1 lifetime record. “You know, the trip, how he comes into the race, how he’s doing mentally, all the little distractions that may happen or don’t happen. I think that plays probably a bigger role in the ultimate outcome.”

Shirreffs has started only four horses in the Pacific Classic, with Midcourt’s third-place finish in last summer’s edition serving as his best outcome. Saturday’s victory was his second in the San Diego Handicap, following Giacomo’s win in 2006.

If Express Train comes out of the race in good shape, Shirreffs gave a firm yes when asked if the 4-year-old Union Rags colt would be pointed toward the Pacific Classic, which will be run Aug. 21 and this year carries a $750,000 purse.

C R K Stable’s Lee Searing, who owns Express train in partnership with his wife, Susan, loves his horse’s versatility.

“We got a horse that can go 1 1/4 miles, 1 1/16 miles,” he said. “Juan put a good ride on him.”

The San Diego Handicap was 1 1/16 miles and Express Train tracked pacesetter Rushie (22.97, 47.16 and 1:12.23) from second the entire way until the stop of the stretch when he took the lead and held off Tripoli by a half length. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Royal Ship.

Final time was 1:43.37.

“I thought he was in a good spot,” Shirreffs said. “He got out of the gate well, got a good forward position and he was on the outside of Rushie. I thought that was a good place for him. He wasn’t anxious or rank so he just kind of stayed in the position comfortably. When Juan asked him he responded very well.”

It was Shirreffs’ second victory of the afternoon in front of an on-track crowd of 11,765, following his win in the sixth race with Pelican Way under Ricardo Gonzalez at 4-1.

Osunitas Stakes

Joe Bravo guided Ippodamia’s Girl to a come-from-behind victory in the $80,000 race for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the turf.

Ippodamia’s Girl, the fourth betting choice at 6-1, rallied from seventh up the backside in the nine-horse field and got up to beat Brooke by a half length. Tapwater, the 5-2 favorite, finished third.

The victory was the fifth in 17 starts for the 6-year-old Stormy Atlantic mare. She’s won two of four since Richard Baltas took over training duties in March.Final time was 1:35.30.

The victory gave Bravo his first riding double in Southern California. He also rode Ginobili to victory in the race before the Osunitas. Baltas trains both horses.

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday June 13

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday June 13 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday May 30

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday May 30 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday May 16

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday May 16 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday May 9

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday May 9 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Swiss Skydiver earns impressive Beholder Mile victory at Santa Anita

ARCADIA — While the other six jockeys were riding horses in Saturday’s $300,000 Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, Robby Albarado was aboard something a bit more powerful.

“It’s like driving a Ferrari,” the 47-year-old jockey said in the winner’s circle after guiding the remarkable filly Swiss Skydiver to a 2 3/4-length victory as the 7-5 favorite in her first start of 2021.

The 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil continues to impress after running at nine different race tracks last year and winning two Grade I stakes en route to an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 3-year-old filly.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Saratoga or Oaklawn Park, Swiss Skydiver runs like she owns the track. Pimlico Race Course? She won the Preakness last year, beating 10 of her male counterparts in an effort as gutty as they come. She wouldn’t let Horse of the Year Authentic get by in the stretch, beating him by a neck.

“I’ve been on some phenomenal fillies … but she’s special,” Albarado said. “She breathes different air. Every time I get on her it’s different. She shows more and more improvement. She could come back this year just as good or better than last year.”

And she ships all over the country successfully. Some talented horses find it difficult to travel away from their main track and win, but Swiss Skydiver just scoffs at the notion that she should stay home.

“If they ran over broken glass she’d say, ‘No problem. Let’s do it,’” winning trainer Kenny McPeek said after she remained unbeaten in two starts at Santa Anita following last year’s victory in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks. “Traveling is no problem. She thrives on it.”

Said Albarado: “She brings the track with her, and she’ll run on any surface. It doesn’t matter, grass or dirt. I think she’d be a great grass filly down the road, too. But we’re enjoying the ride now. She’s giving us a helluva ride.”

Swiss Skydiver, who’s won 7 of 13 starts and padded her career bankroll to $2,025,480 with Saturday’s first-place check for $180,000, was making her first start since finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 7 after stumbling badly at the start.

It was fitting that such a talented filly would win a stakes race named after the incomparable Beholder, who was the first horse in 40 years to win a Grade I race at age 2, 3, 4 and 5 and one of only three horses to win three Breeders’ Cup races.

Beholder beat another talented filly in her own right, Songbird, by a nose in the final race of her career in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita in one of the most memorable Breeders’ Cup races of all time.

“She’s just a machine. She’s just so fast, so talented,” McPeek said of Swiss Skydiver.

Fourth after the first quarter mile, Swiss Skydiver had improved to third around the turn and opened a 1 1/2-length lead at the head of the stretch.

The race was over at that point and the other six fillies and mares were racing for second place. As Time Goes By, the 9-5 second choice trained by Bob Baffert, got up for second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of pacesetter Golden Principal, another Baffert trainee.

Afterward, McPeek was asked what’s next for Swiss Skydiver. He said her connections will look at the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 17 or the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30.

Then McPeek got a twinkle in his eye.

“Maybe we’ll go hunt Monomoy Girl now,” he said.

San Simeon Stakes

Gregorian Chant rallied from fifth in the six-horse field of turf sprinters and beat Sombeyay by a neck in the $100,000 Grade III race for older horses.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, the 5-year-old gelded son of Gregorian won for the fifth time in 14 starts and is 2 for 2 in turf sprints at Santa Anita for trainer Philip D’Amato.

Jolie Olimpica, a 5-year-old mare taking on the boys for trainer Richard Mandella, finished third as the even-money favorite under Mike Smith.

Winning time for the 6 furlongs over a turf course labeled “good” was 1:08.79.

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Santa Anita horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Feb. 21

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday Feb. 21 for horse racing at Santa Anita.

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Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Saturday, Nov. 28

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Saturday, Nov. 28 for horse racing at Del Mar.

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Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Aug. 30

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday, August 30 for racing at Del Mar.

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Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Aug. 23

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday, August 23 for racing at Del Mar.

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