SAN FERNANDO STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES
Fed Biz, a colt that came with a big price tag and a world of potential, recorded the first graded stakes win of his career with a gate-to-wire triumph in the $151,000 San Fernando Feb. 12 at Santa Anita Park.
Kaleem Shah's son of Giant's Causeway , a $950,000 Keeneland September select session yearling buy in 2010, gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record fifth win in the San Fernando.
Fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith delivered a head victory aboard 9-2 shot Fed Biz over determined outsider Tritap in the San Fernando. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile event for 4-year-olds was 1:42.34 over a fast main track.
Fed Biz was thought to be Baffert's top hope early on in last year's Kentucky Derby chase. But a hind end injury sustained after a romping allowance victory at Santa Anita in February knocked the handsome bay off the Triple Crown trail.
Out of the stakes-winning mare Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again, Fed Biz was bred in Kentucky by Colts Neck Stable and was sold by Lane's End Farm as agent at auction,
Eighth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile Nov. 3, Fed Biz rebounded in the San Fernando after a disappointing sixth in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes to begin the current Santa Anita meet Dec. 26. The Malibu, won by Jimmy Creed, and the San Fernando make up two-thirds of Santa Anita's Strub series. The $200,000 Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles is Feb. 2.
Smith, who rode Fed Biz in the Malibu for the first time, said the colt was overheated before the race that day. But he said Baffert and his team worked hard on getting him to relax in the mornings.
"It paid off today. That was the key," Smith said.
Baffert said he didn't know what to do with Fed Biz after the poor effort in the Malibu.
"I wasn't sure I was going to run him in here, and he acted up so much [before the Malibu], but he was doing really well the other day and this horse needed to get a win," he said.
"I expect so much from this horse, when he loses, it's very disappointing," he added. "He's a very talented horse and he was good today going to the gate and he ran well. In the Malibu, he went to the gate and he tried to sit down in there so it was a tough go. I kept telling Kaleem, 'He's such a good horse.'"
Fed Biz was one of three Baffert runners to start in the nine-horse San Fernando after he scratched Sky Kingdom. Guilt Trip rallied impressively to finish third with Joe Talamo aboard, just half a length behind runner-up Tritap. But Mile High Magic, the slight 4-1 favorite, had a nightmare trip under Martin Garcia.
Mile High Magic broke in the air, giving his opponents a couple of lengths, and was rank into the clubhouse turn where Garcia finally wrestled him to the outside of horses. Mile High Magic trailed the field into the far turn and was eventually eased, although Baffert said afterward that the son of Roman Ruler was not injured.
With Mile High Magic no factor, Fed Biz showed speed from between horses to get the early advantage, angling to the inside for Smith. They maintained about a one-length advantage over Handsome Mike and Tritap while clipping off quarter mile fractions of :23.59, :47.28, and 1:11.41. Tritap, on the outside of the pacesetter, went on with it as they left the quarter pole while Handsome Mike began to weaken.
Fed Biz maintained a slight edge in the stretch but could not shake off the 9-1 shot Tritap, ridden by Corey Nakatani for trainer Steve Asmussen. Through the long drive, they were head-and-head as Smith provided strong right-handed urging. Fed Biz would prevail in courageous style over a game Tritap as Guilt Trip closed in late.
Smith said Fed Biz responded well once he got him on his right lead.
"Early on, he used to be a little stubborn about switching to his right," Smith said. "Once I got him over there, he's game, he wouldn't have let somebody by him unless they surprised him."
Guilt Trip, seventh on the far turn, gave strong chase through the lane on the outside for Talamo but was edged for second. Then came Battle Force, Handsome Mike, Tribal Jewel, Regulus, and Fly Lexis Fly.
Fed Biz picked up his first victory since taking the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 31, his first start after returning from his injury. In his next start, he was a close third in the Indiana Derby (gr. II) at Hoosier Park, a good enough effort to convince Baffert to give the BC Dirt Mile a try.
The colt earned $90,000 for his fourth win in eight tries, boosting his bankroll to $274,456.
Fed Biz paid $11.20, $6.20, and $4.40 as the second choice in the well-matched field. Tritap, making his seasonal debut for Winchell Thoroughbreds, returned $9.80 and $6.40 while completing a $112 exacta. The show price on Guilt Trip was $5.60.
Nakatani was pleased with Tritap's effort.
"He ran his butt off," Nakatani said. "We had a real good position but he also had to do quite a bit from the position we had. I had to draw him far out to let him run a little to gain a better position to take the spunk out of him, but obviously I didn't want to get caught too far out. He ran a dynamite race and it was unfortunate that we got beat."
With a possible date in the Santa Anita Handicap looming for Fed Biz March 2, Smith, the regular rider for Game On Dude, could face a decision.
"Great place to be, great place to be, it certainly is a good position to be in," he said. "If you're having to choose a few, at least you are having opportunities. The tough part is when you don't anything to choose from. I'll be glad to have to pick one out."