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Blingo San Antonio winner

SAN ANTONIO STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES

Blingo came from off the pace for his first graded stakes score when heavily favored Game On Dude and Blueskiesnrainbows flamed out in the $300,000 San Antonio Stakes Feb. 8 at Santa Anita Park.

Seven-year-old Game On Dude was an eager beaver at the start of the 1 ⅛-mile San Antonio and it cost the 3-10 favorite dearly as he battled speedy Blueskiesnrainbows through swift quarter mile fractions of :22.75 seconds, :46.25 seconds, and 1:10.17 on a fast track.

By the time they reached the far turn, both front-runners were in deep water as outsider Imperative, ridden craftily by Kent Desormeaux, challenged at the rail and Majestic Harbor ranged up on the outside.

After tracking those rivals around the bend, Blingo, ridden by Aaron Gryder, found room to the inside of Majestic Harbor to challenge for the lead in upper stretch. Blingo and Imperative separated themselves in the drive as the others fell away. Blingo, under left-handed urging on the outside, prevailed by half a length at odds of 15-1 over a game Imperative, a 25-1 chance. The final time was a solid 1:47.95.

The first two combined for a $565.20 exacta, and with bridge jumpers out in force for Game On Dude, the show payoffs were tremendous. Blingo paid $33.80, $11.40, and $27.20, while Imperative returned $12.20 and $22.40. American Blend, off at 19-1, finished 4 ¼ lengths farther back in third and paid $25.80 to show.

Game On Dude, seeking his 14th career graded stakes win for trainer Bob Baffert and an unprecedented third triumph in the San Antonio, was fifth of seven in this traditional Santa Anita Handicap prep. The lifetime earner of more than $5.7 million was making his first start since losing by a head to 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge in the Clark Handicap Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.

Blingo is trained by John Shirreffs for owners Jerry and Ann Moss. He rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the San Pasqual Stakes Jan. 11, a race won handily by Blueskiesnrainbows. That was the bay gelding's first start in three months after spending the summer and fall in New York where he won the I'm A Banker Stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 14.

The winner, a 5-year-old by Artie Schiller -- Wassifa, by Sure Blade, was bred in Kentucky by B.P. Walden Jr. and B. Ray. With his fourth win from 11 lifetime starts, the $85,000 Keeneland September yearling graduate has now earned $364,408.

Majestic Harbor, finished fourth, followed by Game On Dude, 7-2 second choice Blueskiesnrainbows, and Willyconker.