While the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail didn’t pan out for Kanthaka, the West Point Thoroughbreds colorbearer remained perfect from three starts going seven furlongs in Saturday’s $100,345 Laz Barrera (G3) at Santa Anita.
Kanthaka had won two straight over track and trip this winter, following up his maiden score with a convincing display in the San Vicente (G2). Stretching out to two turns for Derby points races, the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil was a distant third to Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie in the March 10 San Felipe (G2), and only sixth behind Good Magic in the April 7 Blue Grass (G2). A lowering of sights was called for, and the Laz Barrera was made to order for a rebound.
Dispatched as the slight 6-5 favorite, Kanthaka was covered up from his rail post, drafting just behind fellow 6-5 shot and pacesetter McKale. There was no shortage of speedy types going after the front runner early. McKale’s stablemate from the Bob Baffert barn, Zulfikhar, was the nearest presser through an opening quarter in :23.05, but eased back. King Cause kept up the heat through a half in :45.53, and Beautiful Shot chased wider out.
Kanthaka was sitting on hold for jockey Flavien Prat on the far turn, but got the split when a weary King Cause could not maintain his position and drifted out a tad. The favorite plowed right through to take command at the six-furlong split in 1:10.12. Kanthaka fans couldn’t cheer yet, however, for Beautiful Shot was proving persistent and forcing him to pull out a little extra. Responding to the challenge, Kanthaka did just that to win going away by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:23.25.
Beautiful Shot crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths clear of the Baffert pair. Zulfikhar, churning on the outside without ever gaining much traction, nipped McKale for third. King Cause faded to fifth, and Bocephus, who trailed throughout, was vanned off. Calexman was scratched.
Kanthaka’s scorecard now stands at 6-3-0-1, $263,663. The chestnut colt’s fondness for seven furlongs likely comes from sire Jimmy Creed, the 2012 Malibu (G1) winner.
Bred by Spendthrift Farms (his sire’s home) in Kentucky, Kanthaka RNA’d for $38,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling. His current connections scooped him up for $140,000 as a Barretts juvenile.
Kanthaka is the first foal from the unraced Noonmark mare Sliced Bread, a half-sister to Canadian Grade 3 scorer Proud Heiress and multiple Japanese stakes heroine Red Chili Pepper. Further back, this is the tribe of Exclusive Native and General Assembly.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Winning rider Flavien Prat: “I had a good trip. I waited to make my move when I wanted, it opened up perfectly and after that, he did a brilliant job.
“Once he got the lead, he kind of looked around. He made that nice move and for about half a length he looked around but that was it.”
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on Kanthaka: “I thought Flavien put the horse right up in there where he had a chance to get trapped and not get out, but he was counting on getting a seam and he did get the seam and went through it right away. When he saw the opening, he went right through, so I was really proud of him and the rider. I think he has the potential to run longer distances, but there are seven-furlong races that fit him really good.”
Michael Grimm of the West Point partnership: “It’s very exciting. This is our second graded stakes win with Kanthaka. We love the horse; he tries so hard. You can always find the breeding for a horse, but you don’t know what’s inside of him until he actually gets into a race. He’s shown he’s got big courage. I was worried when horses came up to him in the stretch, but he held them off and showed his courage.”
Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux on runner-up Beautiful Shot: “He finished full of run. Just an incredible effort; he came back on the last 100 (yards).”
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke on fourth-placer McKale: “He just wasn’t good enough today, that’s it. They didn’t go that fast for that distance and he just didn’t kick on.”
If Baffert was out of luck in the Laz Barrera, the Hall of Famer roared back to upset Moonshine Memories in the $83,225 Angels Flight with 14-1 shot Emboldened. The Godolphin homebred was overlooked after a distant third in a February 9 allowance, but a change to deep-closing tactics sparked a turnaround.
Patiently handled by Martin Garcia, Emboldened lagged well off the frenetic pace of :22.26 and :44.97 set by Surrender Now. When the early front runner stopped abruptly on the far turn, First Dudette inherited the lead. Around the same time, Emboldened was uncorking a circling move, and she maintained her momentum en route to a 2 1/4-length decision.
Moonshine Memories, the 3-2 favorite in her first start since a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), raced just off that taxing tempo. The multiple Grade 1 winner kept on well to take second from First Dudette, and she figures to gain a lot from this tightener.
Emboldened clocked seven furlongs in 1:23.59 and rewarded her backers with $30 to win. A wire-to-wire debut winner here January 5, she sports a mark of 3-2-0-1, $88,020.
The Kentucky-bred has a pedigree similar to Quality Road. Both are by Elusive Quality, and they descend from full sisters. Quality Road is out of Kobla, a sibling to champion Ajina, who is Emboldened’s granddam. Emboldened was produced by Ajina’s daughter by Bernardini, Al Andaleeb.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Emboldened: “I learned that she can sit off the pace. She’s a young horse and she took a lot of dirt. She sat there and they were smokin’ on the front end. Martin (Garcia) just sat there, couldn’t really keep up and just waited…Emboldened showed us a different dimension today and that’s really something to look forward to. We might be able to stretch her out after that.”
Jockey Flavien Prat on runner-up Moonshine Memories: “Turning for home, I thought she was going to win, but she flattened out a little bit. She had been away, so I think she’ll improve off of this race.”