March 4, 2024

Friar’s Road blessed with perfect set-up in San Marcos

Friar's Road and jockey Flavien Prat win the San Marcos Stakes (Photo by Benoit Photo)

After knocking on the door in his past three stakes attempts, 11-10 favorite Friar’s Road burst through in Sunday’s $225,000 San Marcos (G2) at Santa Anita. The Michael McCarthy trainee made the most of an advantageous stalking trip behind a contested pace, and renewed his potential to become a force in the Southern California turf division.

Ridden by Flavien Prat for the first time since his early days on dirt, Friar’s Road camped in third as habitual front runner Acclimate set up shop. Acclimate whizzed through splits of :22.69 (with a 230-foot run-up) and :46.60 on the firm turf, but found Bob and Jackie ranging up to force the issue through six furlongs in 1:11.09. Bob and Jackie got the better of Acclimate passing the mile in 1:34.98 and began to edge away from him in the stretch.

Friar’s Road was just revving up for Prat. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s colorbearer straightened up and lengthened stride, the race was over. Friar’s Road “engulfs them,” as track announcer Frank Mirahmadi aptly summed up. Widening his margin to 4 1/4 lengths, the son of Quality Road polished off 1 1/4 miles in 1:58.67.

“We think he’s been quite a horse,” Warren told Santa Anita publicity. “He’s fun to watch with that real kick he has in the stretch. We brought two other couples from Tulsa to come watch and it’s a great pleasure to see such a masterful ride from Flavien Prat. He had him in position the whole way.”

Prat believed that Friar’s Road was poised for a good effort.

“I had been on him a few times in the morning and I was really happy with the way he was training,” the winning rider said. “He was doing well coming into this race and he broke well and got me into the race. 

“There was a strong pace today and he was there for me when it was time to make a move. The pace was key today. He’s a big horse with a long stride and you don’t want to take too much hold of him.”

The 13.50-1 Bob and Jackie salvaged second by a head from the closing Say the Word, the 2.30-1 second choice. Lincoln Hawk relegated Acclimate to last in the small field, reduced to five following the scratch of Dicey Mo Chara.

Friar’s Road has bankrolled $346,500 from his 13-3-4-2 line. The $500,000 Keeneland September yearling had a big enough reputation to try the 2020 Santa Anita Derby (G1) as a maiden. That ambitious attempt didn’t pan out in sixth. Although Friar’s Road scored next time out in a Del Mar maiden, he was looking more like an underachiever in his ensuing dirt starts.

The switch to turf last year was a revelation. A smashing entry-level allowance winner going 1 3/8 miles at Del Mar, he flew from last for a near-miss third in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2). His resume wasn’t sufficient to get into the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), and his next opportunity, the Nov. 26 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), resulted in a slow-starting third. The San Gabriel (G3) on Santa Anita’s opening day could have marked his breakthrough, but it was transferred to the main track, and his rally came a fraction too late in a photo-finish second. Everything finally fell into place in the San Marcos.

Bred by Robert and Lawana Low in Kentucky, Friar’s Road is out of My Sugar Bear, a Giant’s Causeway half-sister to Grade 3 marathoner Cupid’s Claws. Further on the page, one finds multiple Grade 2 hero and $1.9 million-earner Guided Tour.