Some days in racing run almost exactly as one can expect. However, eyes on the track at Belmont got a shock when heavy favorite, Rachel’s Valentina, one of two foals of the great race mare, Rachel Alexandra, failed to hit the wire, leaving the win to Off the Tracks. Off the Tracks went wire-to-wire to earn her first Grade I victory. Rachel’s Valentina finished a disappointing fifth, with little explanation.
Surprise was not really in the cards for most races at Santa Anita, not until late in the day. In the 1st, heavy favorite, Girl Downstairs and Rafael Bejarano did not disappoint, clearing the field even after being three wide in the stretch.
The odds-on favorite in the 2nd could not hold off the hard running Cee the Preacher, with Tiago Pereira aboard, who seemed to have plenty left at the wire. Favorite Papa Joey and Santiago Gonzalez were bumped at the start and slow to get going but came up to get the place.
Santiago Gonzalez got his win on Yodelsong in the 3rd, though had to battle a hard-charging Paschalitsa, with jockey, Flavien Prat up. Though the duel lasted down the stretch to the wire, Yodelsong was best.
Race 4 was a duel between Doug O’Neill trainees, with Sizzlin Square and Mario Gutierrez taking on Amodei and Rafael Bejarano. Sizzlin Square prevailed at the wire and had the higher odds, with Amodei being the bettors’ pick. Amodei though was respectable in his second place finish and both look to be promising two-year-olds. Trainer, Doug O’Neill also trained the Kentucky Derby winner of 2016, Nyquist.
Though all eyes were on Danzing Candy, the Desormeaux brothers had their moment in the sun in the 5th, the Grade I Affirmed Stakes. The trainer, Keith and jockey, Kent respectively saddled and rode the Preakness winner this year, with Exaggerator, who famously beat the Derby winner, Nyquist. Bob Baffert’s favorite Danzing Candy, under new jockey, Rafael Bejarano, just could not catch the smooth-running Dalmore and Kent, who pulled ahead at the eighth pole and never looked back, hitting the wire alone.
Yet another favorite took the 6th, when Seattle Boom under jockey, Edwin Maldonado drew clear to hit the wire ahead of Cheap O Charlie and Iggy Puglisi. The 7th race was a repeat of the 6th, with a horse running clear however Profound Visionary, at odds of nearly 6 to 1, and Martin Pedroza kicked clear of the favorite, Boompa and Tyler Baze.
To the Bar gave Santiago Gonzalez another nice win as he took the lead and cleared the field in the 8th. Pioneerof the West bobbled at the start but finished a respectable second, and favorite, Rare Candy was off slow and came in third.
The 9th and final race was led by Valentine Boy and Rito Almanza, who was making his first starts in the United States on this very day. Almanza and Valentine Boy took the lead early and held it all the way to the wire, finishing first in the field of eleven, at odd of 25 to 1. Almanza was doused with a bucket of water in celebration of his win and was all smiles to finish off the day. This also occurred on a horse who had run sixteen times at Santa Anita but had never won. It was a joyous end to a beautiful day, and with only one more weekend of racing in the spring meet, we’ll see if that moment can be beat.