Upset in Big ’Cap as Melatonin Pulls Stunner

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Melatonin powered to a dominant win in the Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Tarabilla Farms’ Melatonin provided a 16-1 shocker in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap, leading the field of nine from start to finish to score by 4 1/4 lengths on Saturday and withstanding an inquiry after the race to make his first stakes win a Grade 1.

Heading into the final turn, Reddam Racing’s Donworth and jockey Mario Gutierrez attempted to move through on the rail — inside of the front-running Melatonin — and checked harshly, but Santa Anita Park stewards made no changes after a review. Donworth ended up tiring to finish seventh, but he was rank through most of the race and hard to handle for Gutierrez.

Melatonin set fractions of :22.82, :46.28, and 1:10.81 through three-quarters of a mile and finished the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.01 under jockey Joe Talamo, well clear of Grade 1 winner Hard Aces, who edged favored Effinex — another Grade 1 winner — by a half-length.

“He’s so strong and he had so much horse left, I think he wants to run even farther, and I was convinced he was a miler,” winning trainer said David Hofmans after his the first Big ’Cap victory of his career.

Prior to the Big ’Cap, the gelding sparkled in his two-turn debut, a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race on Feb. 5 and previously ran second in his only other graded stakes race in the Oct. 3 Eddie D. Stakes sprinting on the Santa Anita hillside turf course.

“His race last time was just so impressive to me,” Talamo said. “He was sprinting, he was running on turf, but he just impressed me the way he did it. He won by over three [lengths] and it was even easier than it looked, so we thought we’d take a shot today.”

With the $600,000 Big ’Cap winner’s share, Melatonin pushed his earnings to $768,552. He now has four wins, two seconds and three thirds from 11 starts. The victory also gave Melatonin’s sire, Kodiak Kowboy, his first Grade 1 win as a sire. Melatonin was bred by S. D. Brilie LP, out of the Yankee Victor mare Yanquee Reign.

Imperative made mild gains to finish fourth, followed by Point Piper, Class Leader, Donworth, Cyrus Alexander, and General a Rod, to complete the order of finish.

As for Donworth, the 5-2 second choice, trainer Doug O’Neill blamed himself for the rough trip.

“Bad training,” O’Neill said. “He was rank. You just have to blame me on that one. Mario did a great job. They were flying and he was trying to get him to settle.”

For an Equibase chart, click here.

JOCKEY JOE TALAMO CELEBRATES AFTER WINNING THE SANTA ANITA HANDICAP

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

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