SAN GABRIEL STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | Grade 2 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
B.J. Wright's Jeranimo propelled himself from last to first with a blistering turn of foot in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,500 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita, regaining the title he first won in 2010. With Rafael Bejarano aboard, the Michael Pender veteran inhaled pacesetter Chosen Miracle inside the final furlong and kicked away to score by an emphatic 2 3/4 lengths.
Jeranimo benefited from a fast pace that set up his trademark late kick, a scenario that had been lacking in last year's San Gabriel. That running was actually his title defense, for the turf feature was not run in 2011, having been moved from its late December spot to January 16, 2012. With no pace on tap at all, Jeranimo uncharacteristically found himself on the early lead, and he was outfinished by Norvsky. In his third straight appearance in the San Gabriel on Sunday, there was no such problem.
The speedy Chosen Miracle bounded right to the front and established quick splits of :22 4/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 4/5. Fast Track was his nearest pursuer, followed by Temple's Door and Tale of a Champion. Parked back in fifth was 3-2 favorite Slim Shadey, who crept closer approaching the far turn. Juniper Pass raced in the penultimate spot, and Jeranimo, the 2-1 second choice, was happy to bring up the rear.
Turning into the stretch, Chosen Miracle hung tough and was still on the lead at the mile mark in 1:35. Slim Shadey's brief run into contention flattened out, but Jeranimo was just beginning to hit top gear. The seven-year-old rapidly built up a head of steam and blasted right on by, finishing 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf in 1:46 2/5 and returning $6, $3.80 and $2.60.
"I had a ton of horse from the beginning all the way to the end," Bejarano said. "I never had to use the stick. He just galloped the whole race. Coming into the stretch I asked a little bit, and he responded with a big kick. The way he ran today was impressive."
Temple's Door overtook Chosen Miracle by a half-length for runner-up honors, and Juniper Pass crossed the wire another length adrift in fourth. Tale of a Champion, Slim Shadey and Fast Track rounded out the order of finish.
Jeranimo was registering his sixth career stakes victory, boosting his bankroll to $1,197,400 from his 32-9-6-5 line. The son of Congaree, who was third in the Grade 2 San Felipe in his stakes debut in 2009, scored his breakthrough in the following year's Grade 2 Strub Stakes. Since taking the 2010 San Gabriel, Jeranimo has captured the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile and Grade 2 Citation in 2011, and he achieved a Grade 1 coup in last summer's Shoemaker Mile.
His resume also includes seven stakes placings. Aside from the aforementioned San Felipe, Jeranimo garnered credits in the 2011 editions of the Grade 1 Eddie Read, Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile and Grade 2 Arcadia, as well as in last year's San Gabriel, Grade 3 San Francisco Mile and Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. Unplaced in the past two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile, he was most recently fourth as the defending champion in the November 23 Citation.
Bred by Brylynn Farm in Florida, Jeranimo sold for $50,000 as an OBS August yearling and $70,000 as a Barretts May two-year-old. The bay is out of the stakes-winning Jeblar mare Jera, who has also produced the stakes-placed pair of Wealthy Aviator and Tizthen.
This is the family of multiple Grade 1-winning sire First Samurai, unbeaten Grade 2 star Kantharos, Grade 2 victor O'Prado Again and Grade 3 scorers Ikigai and Sky Blue Pink.
Pender revealed that the Grade 1 Arlington Million could be a major goal for Jeranimo this year.
"We have always had dreams of running in the Arlington Million," the trainer said. "We think this horse can go a mile and a quarter, if he gets his trip and gets the right pace in front of him.
"As he gets older we are going to try and turn him into a marathoner. He might just surprise a few people. I don't think he's ever been a miler, but that's where we were in the last couple of years."
Pender also commented on his remarkable relationship with Wright, who coached him when he was a quarterback on a Pop Warner League team. Wright reconnected with his former pupil at the track, and they now form a successful owner/trainer team.
"What else can you say about B.J. Wright? Many articles have been written about him, and he's the man," Pender said. "We met one another when I was just a kid, 10 years old, and we found each other here at the racetrack once again. This is the house that B.J. Wright has built."