Peter Brant's Raging Bull had spent the last 17 months searching for a way back to the winner's circle. Looking to change his fortunes in 2020, the 5-year-old son of Dark Angel wasted no time May 25 and ran down his competition to win the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
One of the first Grade 1 races on the calendar since the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in California, the Shoemaker drew an impressive field of 10 older horses that were more than ready for a return to action. A wobbly start at the break sent Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and jockey Flavien Prat veering to the inside rail. The action prompted several runners to make contact including Voodoo Song, who recovered quickly and was hustled to the lead on the rail by Mike Smith.
Neptune's Storm raced just off the rail and pressed Voodoo Song through a :44.75 half mile. War of Will hugged the rail along the backstretch, was angled out exiting the second turn, and briefly stuck his nose in front. But the lead was short-lived as Raging Bull, who had saved ground off the pace in eighth through much of the race, rallied to take command.
Ahead by a length at the top of the stretch, jockey Joel Rosario urged Raging Bull forward while guiding him toward the inside. With no traffic to slow his momentum, he crossed the wire 2 ¼ lengths in front in a final time of 1:32.73.
"He broke well and it looked like there was a good pace, he was very controlled. He just came with his run like he does all the time," said Rosario. "He put in a nice run. It is beautiful. It's nice to be back here and be back in action."
Next Shares closed from ninth to second at the wire. It was a photo finish for favored Without Parole and River Boyne for third, with Without Parole emerging ahead of his competition by a neck.
Following a stewards’ inquiry, War of Will was disqualified from fifth to sixth for interference at the start. In a unanimous decision, War of Will was found to have ducked in at the break costing True Valour a chance at a better placing.
Neptune's Storm, Blitzkrieg, Voodoo Song, and March to the Arch completed the order of finish.
Juan Hernandez, assistant to winning trainer Chad Brown, said the team couldn't have been prouder of Raging Bull's effort. The added bonus to Monday's victory for the Brown stable is that the Shoemaker Mile is a "Win and You're In" qualifying race for the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile.
"He ran a super race and he always runs good," said Hernandez. "He had trained well here and he was acting good. He's just a very special horse."
Raging Bull's most impressive season to date came at 3, when he took the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, Saranac Stakes, and Hollywood Derby. He was winless in five starts at 4, but hit the board three times in the Manhattan Stakes, Fourstardave Handicap, and Ricoh Woodbine Mile.