March 4, 2024

Royal Ship outduels Country Grammer in Californian

Royal Ship
Royal Ship and jockey Mike Smith (outside) outleg Country Grammer (inside) to win the Californian Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Royal Ship gained the upper hand on Country Grammer late in Saturday’s $200,000 Californian S. (G2) at Santa Anita, prevailing by a neck after an exciting stretch battle. It marked the first U.S. win for the Brazilian Group 1 winner.

Mike Smith was up on the five-year-old gelding for owners Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm.

Royal Ship won five consecutive straight races in his native Brazil, including a trio of stakes, before being imported last year. He was making his fifth start stateside for trainer Richard Mandella, recording a close fifth most recently in the March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile S. (G1) on turf.

By Midshipman, Royal Ship was making only his second dirt attempt in his last 10 outings in the 1 1/8-mile Californian. He stopped the teletimer in 1:48.47, scoring as the 5-1 fourth choice among five runners.

Country Grammer, the 7-2 second choice, established fractions in :23.23, :46.98, and 1:10.67 while being closely tracked by Royal Ship. He was 9 1/2 lengths clear of 3-5 favorite Independence Hall. Magic On Tap and Growth Engine completed the order of finish.

Bred by Haras Belmont, Royal Ship improved his career record to 12-6-1-2. He’s one of two stakes winners out of the Val Royal mare Bela Val.