The Pamplemousse in the saddling barn before the San Rafael Stakes, Santa Anita.
Edited Santa Anita Park report.
The Pamplemousse, with only a maiden victory to his credit, not only resisted a challenge by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie, but drew away again Saturday to capture Santa Anita’s Grade III, $100,000 San Rafael Stakes, the track’s first major preparatory event for 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail.
Under a confident ride by Alex Solis, the gray son of Kafwain defeated the odds-on favorite by two lengths while covering one mile in 1:35.31 after setting a solid, but comfortable early pace. Runner-up Square Eddie, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, ended up 2-3/4 lengths ahead of third-place Ryehill Dreamer with Mike Smith aboard.
“I’m speechless, I really am,” Solis said afterward. “This horse has such a high cruising speed. I thought I was going (quarter mile splits of) 24 and 48 (instead of 23.04 and 45.07). It feels like he’s walking, he does everything so effortlessly. He was so impressive, when the other horses came to him, he didn’t see them. He heard them, and he just took off.”
The Pamplemousse put himself squarely into the Triple Crown picture. “I better start going to church and hope he stays sound,” commented Solis. He might want to be accompanied to church by his son, Alex II, a part owner who picked out the colt at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale in March of 2006. The sales price was $150,000. “This makes it even more special,” noted the 44-year-old rider. “My son liked the way he moved.”
At odds of 5-2, The Pamplemousse was the second choice after three late scratches reduced the starting field to five. He paid $7.20, $3 and $2.20. Square Eddie paid $2.20 and $2.10 with the show price on Ryehill Dreamer being $2.60.
“I was concerned when I saw the early fractions, but he was training unbelievable,” said Julio Canani, who trains The Pamplemousse for a partnership that includes Ann Winner, Carol Bienstock, William Strauss and the younger Solis. The Pamplemousse earned $60,000 to bring his total to $89,280 from a 2-0-1 record in four starts.
“He’s developing mentally and physically,” Canani added. “He’s awkward because he’s growing and growing. He’s huge, but he’s got a great mind, and I’ve got no problems with him. He re-broke in the stretch when Square Eddie came to him, but he’s much better when he follows another horse. I’ll take my time with him. If I run him in the (April 4) Santa Anita Derby, he may run one more time before that.”
Doug O’Neill, who trains Square Eddie, said that the 3-5 favorite “got tired.” Added O’Neill, “He should definitely move forward off this. It was his first race in almost three months. Obviously, we wanted to win, but the main thing is for him to come out of this good and go in the right direction.”