June 6, 2023

Shaman Ghost scary good in Santa Anita Handicap

Owner Frank Stronach guides his Shaman Ghost and jockey Javier Castellano into the winner's circle after victory in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at Santa Anita Park © BENOIT PHOTO

Stronach Stables’ Shaman Ghost got back to his winning ways on Saturday when running down pacesetter Midnight Storm to score a three-quarter length victory in the $751,035 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) under jockey Javier Castellano.

The Jimmy Jerkens trainee had not visited the winner’s circle since taking last year’s Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in early September. That didn’t stop the wagering public from making him the 6-5 favorite over Midnight Storm in the Big ‘Cap.

Midnight Storm tried to take it all the way home as the 7-5 second choice, setting splits of :23.54, :47.52, 1:11.76 and 1:36.18. Castellano positioned Shaman Ghost in a tracking spot just behind Midnight Storm as Isotherm ranged up to press the leader down the backstretch.

Those three maintained their spots entering the turn but Isotherm couldn’t keep up and Shaman Ghost angled out upon hitting the stretch. Weaving out and then back in, the five-year-old son of Ghostzapper collared Midnight Storm in the shadow of the wire to stop the clock in 2:01.57 for 1 1/4 miles over the fast Santa Anita main track.

Shaman Ghost paid $4.60 for the win, which improved his career mark to 15-7-2-2, $3,539,311. Midnight Storm proved best of the rest, 4 1/2 lengths up on Follow Me Crev in third, while Hi Happy, Isotherm, Hard Aces, Twentytwentyvision, Gangster and Imperative completed the order of finish.

Despite not showing a win since last September, Shaman Ghost has not been sitting on his laurels. The Ontario-bred bay closed out 2016 with a third-place run in the Clark Handicap (G1) and opened this year with a game second behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1). He also boasts a win in the Brooklyn Stakes (G2) from last season.

Shaman Ghost began his career under the tutelage of trainer Brian Lynch in Canada, though he did travel south of the border some at the beginning. In 2015 he captured the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen’s Plate, and just missed by a neck when runner-up in the second jewel, the Prince of Wales Stakes.

Those two efforts, combined with a victory in the Marine Stakes (Can-G3) prior to the Queen’s Plate, saw Shaman Ghost earn a Sovereign Award as the 2015 Canadian champion three-year-old male.

Bred in Canada by owner Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, Shaman Ghost is out of the multiple stakes-placed Gilded Time mare Getback Time and comes from the same female family as multiple Grade 1 hero and sire Brother Derek.

SANTA ANITA HANDICAP QUOTES

Javier Castellano, jockey Shaman Ghost, winner

“I knew there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race so I just wanted to focus on the horse on the lead, Midnight Storm, and keep track of him. (Shaman Ghost) was comfortable the whole way.

“I knew I had it won at the eighth-pole. I asked him for full speed at the eighth-pole, and he gave it to me, right away. I said ‘Yes!’

“I tried to get away from Midnight Storm in the stretch. I could tell that my horse was a little sensitive to going by the other horse. I switched my stick to my left hand, tried to make him switch leads to go by and that’s what he did.

“He’s a classy horse. With not a lot of speed in the race, I had to ask him a little, put him really close to the pace and he responded. Very classy horse.”

James Jerkens, trainer Shaman Ghost, winner

“He was in a nice spot the whole way, and then when the leader kicked away a little on the turn, for a second it looked like he was getting a little discouraged.

“Javier was able to head him to the outside, out of the dirt, and I felt good right before they turned for home. I felt like, ‘May the best horse win.’

“It didn’t look on paper like there was much pace, so it didn’t surprise me that he was placed where he was. He’s been showing up in all of his races, so I think he should get some (respect) now.”

Frank Stronach, breeder/owner Shaman Ghost, winner

“This is my third win in the Big ‘Cap (Milwaukee Brew, 2002 & 2003) Of course any time you win a Grade 1 it is a thrill, especially this race.

“I was kind of sitting there quiet (watching the race.) He’s had a lot of bad racing luck and he’s better than what he has shown. Today it all worked out.”

Rafael Bejarano, jockey Midnight Storm, second

“I didn’t try to send him right away, I just left him alone. At the first jump he was stepping slow but I didn’t rush him. I let him go and when I got him to the lead I tried to hold the pace, letting everybody follow me. It was good.

“I stayed on the rail, and the horse relaxed. He was really, really relaxed the whole race. I tried to get the jump at the start and tried to steal the race, but the winner was much the best today.

“With my horse, it was the first time running the mile and a quarter on the dirt. I think he did a really good job.”