Stilleto Boy sharp from the start in Californian Stakes at Santa Anita

View Original Notice ? Stilleto Boy sharp from the start in Californian Stakes at Santa Anita

Stilleto Boy hadn’t shown early speed in any of his races since last summer when he went to the front in the Grade III La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar on the turf before fading to finish fifth.

On Saturday, facing 2-5 favorite Express Train, jockey Juan Hernandez hustled the 4-year-old Shackleford gelding out of the gate and the duo was never headed in the $200,000 Grade II Californian Stakes at Santa Anita.

Santa Anita Handicap winner Express Train, shooting for his fourth consecutive graded-stakes victory at the meet, had to settle for second, beaten by 2 1/4 lengths. He tracked the winner all the way around, loomed up threateningly on the outside at the head of the stretch but could never pass the horse he’d beaten by nine lengths in the Big ‘Cap on March 5.

Stilleto Boy, third behind Life Is Good and Knicks Go in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29, carved out fractions of 22.92, 46.30 and 1:09.70 en route to a final clocking of 1:48.07 for the mile and an eighth as the 2-1 second choice in the wagering.

Hernandez said the plan was to be aggressive with the winner, who’s won three of 15 and claimed millionaire status ($1,031,175) with the victory.

“He broke really sharp and put himself on the lead and held onto it,” said Hernandez, the meet’s second-leading rider behind Flavien Prat. “Express Train is another really nice horse. He ran really well and he was right next to me the whole time. Around the (far) turn, it looked like he was going to pass by. He made me work really hard today.”

Ed Moger scored his first victory with Stilleto Boy in eight tries since taking over training duties. He said he didn’t tell Hernandez he needed the lead to win.

“We just said to hustle him out of there and get him into the race and things worked out good,’ Moger said. “I thought he ran a winning race in Florida and I think he ran just as good today. He beat a good horse today. We’ve been thinking about the Hollywood Gold Cup as long as he ran good here.”

Winning owner Steve Moger purchased Stilleto Boy after he won the Iowa Derby last summer at Prairie Meadows.

“I liked the way he looked and I watched his races and I said, ‘Let’s take a shot,’” he said. “I didn’t even tell Ed we got him until after the deal was done. ‘By the way, I’m sending you a horse.’ He ran great today.”

Spielberg, a 12-1 longshot in the four-horse field, finished a distant third, 22 lengths behind Express Train. It was another 4 1/4 lengths back to Holden the Lute in fourth.

Express Train went into the race off victories in a pair of Grade II stakes – the San Antonio and San Pasqual – before his victory by a head over Warrant in the Santa Anita Handicap. He’s now won eight of 18 and four of 11 at Santa Anita.

Now Saturday’s 1-2 finishers will wait for the Hollywood Gold Cup to determine who’s the best older horse on the grounds.