Royal Ship gained the upper hand on Country Grammer late in Saturday’s $200,000 Californian S. (G2) at Santa Anita, prevailing by a neck after an exciting stretch battle. It marked the first U.S. win for the Brazilian Group 1 winner.
Mike Smith was up on the five-year-old gelding for owners Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm.
Royal Ship won five consecutive straight races in his native Brazil, including a trio of stakes, before being imported last year. He was making his fifth start stateside for trainer Richard Mandella, recording a close fifth most recently in the March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile S. (G1) on turf.
By Midshipman, Royal Ship was making only his second dirt attempt in his last 10 outings in the 1 1/8-mile Californian. He stopped the teletimer in 1:48.47, scoring as the 5-1 fourth choice among five runners.
Country Grammer, the 7-2 second choice, established fractions in :23.23, :46.98, and 1:10.67 while being closely tracked by Royal Ship. He was 9 1/2 lengths clear of 3-5 favorite Independence Hall. Magic On Tap and Growth Engine completed the order of finish.
Bred by Haras Belmont, Royal Ship improved his career record to 12-6-1-2. He’s one of two stakes winners out of the Val Royal mare Bela Val.