When the Santa Anita winter meet opened for business on Sunday, the agenda included a trio of graded grass stakes with logical favorites. But when the three races were rained off the turf, upsets became the theme of the afternoon.
The first example came in the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel S. (G3), which—due to the surface switch—was automatically downgraded from Grade 2 status pending review from the American Graded Stakes Committee. After morning-line favorite Hit the Road and two others withdrew, only four horses faced the starter, and 5-1 longshot Bob and Jackie sprung a gate-to-wire upset.
A perfect ride from jockey Jose Valdivia helped carry Bob and Jackie to the winner’s circle. Escaping on an uncontested lead through fractions of :23.75, :49.29, and 1:13.82 over a slow-playing main track, Bob and Jackie found just enough in the final furlong to dig down and win by a nose over 7-10 favorite Friar’s Road, with Ready Soul and Indian Peak trailing the field.
The switch from turf to dirt clearly benefited Bob and Jackie, who stopped the timer in 1:53.51. The son of Twirling Candy had previously won three ungraded stakes on grass, but the San Gabriel marked his first success at the graded level. Richard Baltas conditions the bay five-year-old on behalf of owners Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran.
Another upset unfolded in the Santa Anita Mathis Mile S. (G3), originally slated as a Grade 2. Bettors expected Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Beyond Brilliant to win the one-mile test for three-year-olds, sending him off at 7-5. But after carving out splits of :23.26, :46.65, and 1:10.95, Beyond Brilliant succumbed in the final furlong to the pace-tracking 4-1 shot Law Professor, who rallied tenaciously under Jose Ortiz to win by half a length in 1:37.41.
Tarantino, None Above the Law, Du Jour, Airman, Cane Creek Road, and Flashiest completed the order of finish.
Trained by Michael McCarthy for Twin Creeks Racing Stables, Law Professor had previously won maiden and allowance events on dirt and turf, showcasing multi-surface versatility. The future looks bright for the gelded son of Constitution, who is 2-for-2 since returning from a five-month layoff in November.
The day’s biggest surprise came in the American Oaks (G2) for three-year-old fillies racing 1 1/4 miles. Six-time grass stakes winner Going Global was favored at 4-5 to win the originally Grade 1 prize, but after rallying into contention at the quarter pole, she gave way to finish 15 1/4 lengths behind the McCarthy-trained Queen Goddess.
Speed was the name of the game for Queen Goddess, who led from start to finish under Juan Hernandez. Splits of :23.30, :47.62, and 1:12.87 left Queen Goddess with enough in the tank to draw off and beat stablemate Nicest by 2 3/4 lengths in 2:04.72, followed by Fluffy Socks, Ivy League, Single Soul, Going Global, Closing Remarks, Charges Dropped, Burgoo Alley, and Core Values.
Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and TOLO Thoroughbreds, Queen Goddess finished fifth in the Oct. 16 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) on turf at Keeneland, her lone previous stakes run. The daughter of Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker evidently relished switching to dirt and has upside for a productive 2022 campaign.