Photos courtesy Benoit & Associates
By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse
Trainer Bob Baffert and owners Gary and Mary West had nothing to apologize for after favored Guilt Trip gave them their second grade II win of the afternoon in the $200,000 Strub Stakes Feb. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Guilt Trip earned his first stakes win in the Strub, which is restricted to 4-year-olds. The 1 1/2-length victory in the Strub for the son of Pulpit came a few races after Flashback earned plaudits with a romping victory in Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) to become a leading West Coast Triple Crown contender for the Wests and Hall of Fame trainer Baffert.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Guilt Trip swept up on the outside to take the lead from Baffert stablemate Fed Bizapproaching midstretch, and edged away in the final sixteenth to complete the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.97 over a fast track.
The victory gave Baffert his record fourth win in the Strub Stakes.
Guilt Trip was coming off a strong-closing third to Fed Biz in the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 12, and the extra sixteenth of a mile worked to his advantage as Fed Biz lost his punch late.
Stephanoatsee, last at the three-eighths pole under Julien Leparoux, rallied four wide in the stretch and got up for second by three-quarters of a length over Fed Biz.
Guilt Trip, who was a slight 2-1 choice over Fed Biz, would be a strong consideration for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 2.
"Stretching him out was really important for him," Baffert noted. "The longer distance will really help him. He can sit and wait. Today the pace was pretty fast, so it was a big difference."
Asked about the Santa Anita Handicap for Guilt Trip, Baffert, who also trains Big 'Cap favorite Game On Dude, responded, "It's a good option for him if he's doing well. I don't like to get ahead of myself because we're superstitious. We don't want to jinx ourselves."
Bred in Kentucky by Winsong Farm, the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling buy in 2010 is out of the winning Quiet American mare Mysterieuse Etoile.
Fed Biz broke on top from post 2 but settled into third into the clubhouse turn as Tritap and Handsome Mike shot past on the outside and dueled through solid fractions of :22.52, :46.23, and 1:10.95. Handsome Mike took a narrow advantage in upper stretch before Fed Biz, angled to the outside by Mike Smith, put his nose in front briefly.
But Guilt Trip, who stalked in fourth into the homestretch, was up on the far outside and full of run through the lane. He edged away late under left-handed urging from Joe Talamo.
"It really set up great for him," Talamo said of Guilt Trip's trip. "The extra sixteenth (of a mile) really helped. I think the mile and a quarter (of the Santa Anita Handicap) he'll love even more. He's a professional. I just had to point him in the right direction today."
Florida shipper Stephanoatsee, making his first start of the year for trainer Graham Motion and My Meadowview Farm, put in a strong late run and also has the look of a Big 'Cap horse.
"He's a big horse and it took him a long time to get going," Leparoux said. "The winner got the jump on us, but my horse didn't get tired."
Fed Biz, ridden by Mike Smith held third by a nose over Handsome Mike with San Fernando runner-up Tritap and Groovin' Solo trailing the six-horse field. Shadow Runner scratched.
Guilt Trip snapped a three-race losing streak, his last victory coming in an allowance optional claiming test for trainer Chad Brown Oct. 27 at Belmont Park. He was transferred to Baffert's barn prior to the start of the Santa Anita meet and ran fifth in the opening-day Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at seven furlongs.
The victory was Guilt Trip's third from seven starts and the $120,000 winner's share more than doubled his career bankroll to $237,567.
Guilt Trip carried 118 pounds and paid $6.40, $3.40, $2.60. Stephanoatsee returned $4.20 and $3.40 while completing a $23.80 exacta. Fed Biz, who shared the 123-pound high impost with Handsome Mike, paid $3 to show.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
GUILT TRIP AND TALAMO CELEBRATE THEIR WIN