After problematic trips in his last three, Itsinthepost deserved better fortune, and the Red Baron’s Barn runner finally got it in Sunday’s $201,035 John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at Santa Anita.
A seam opened between rivals in the stretch, allowing the 8-5 favorite to burst through and head longtime leader Prime Attraction at the wire. Trained by Jeff Mullins and ridden by Tyler Baze, Itsinthepost flew his last quarter in :22.39, according to Trakus, to complete 1 1/4 firm-turf miles in 1:58.28 and fuel Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) discussion.
In the form of his life this season at five, the French import finished second in the off-the-turf San Gabriel (G3) January 7, and missed by a half-length in the February 4 San Marcos (G2) at this course and distance, before prevailing in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey (G2). Itsinthepost made it two straight when shipping to Keeneland for the Elkhorn (G2), but had no luck in the interim. He advanced too early in the Charles Whittingham (G2) back here, got hung out wide, and boxed on for a better-than-appears fifth.
The United Nations (G1) at Monmouth was a tactical debacle, as Itsinthepost was embroiled in a speed duel and tired to fifth, only beaten a couple of lengths. His early nemesis, who edged him when saving third, has done pretty well for himself since – Beach Patrol has gone on to turn a rare Arlington Million (G1)/Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) double.
Itsinthepost was poised for a similar rebound from the UN in the August 19 Del Mar H. (G2), only to get shuffled back on the inside at a crucial point. Recovering to roll late, he couldn’t catch the smooth-trip Hunt and settled for second.
On Sunday, Itsinthepost drew the rail, but his ground-saving passage worked out more favorably. Nestled just behind front-running Prime Attraction through fractions of :24.01, :48.31, 1:12.29, and 1:35,63, the bay was racing alongside Hunt. His rival again was in the clear while Itsinthepost needed room. Yet the rest unfolded very differently. Hunt weakened abruptly in the stretch, and Itsinthepost split Prime Attraction and Frank Conversation to regain the winning thread, improving his scorecard to 29-6-7-5, $695,707.
There was a 2 1/2-length gap back to Frank Conversation, who held third by a neck from Inordinate. Hunt retreated to seventh of eight.
Bred by Julien Leaunes, Itsinthepost is by American Post and out of the winning Mozart mare Sakkara Star. His third dam is Group 2 victress Silk Slippers, a descendant of Hall of Famer Shuvee’s accomplished full sister, Nalee.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Mark Cohen of Red Baron’s Barn on Itsinthepost: “This has been a very special horse for my family. Everybody at the barn loves him. He loves to train, he’s tough to pull up after his works and after his races. He’s basically had no breaks in training since he was a two-year-old. He gives you everything he’s got. It seems like the only times he gets beat are when he gets a roadblock. We’re definitely going to talk about the Breeders’ Cup Turf.”
Winning rider Tyler Baze: “I love this horse, I really do. Jeff (Mullins) and I talked about this race and it came up pretty much the way we thought. He laid pretty close today and he still had a really good kick. Wherever he goes, I go.”
Trainer Jeff Mullins: “He’s just a pleasure to train. He’s so professional. We were unlucky not to win last time (in the Del Mar ‘Cap), but everything worked out great today. He’s as honest as they come.”
Hall of Fame rider Victor Espinoza on runner-up Prime Attraction: “He switched to his wrong lead in the last 20 yards and I think that cost him the race. He relaxed really well today, but when he switched leads, he lost a little bit of his stride and I think that cost him the race.”