Red Baron’s Barn’s Itsinthepost had to wait a year to get his trophy in the $201,725 San Gabriel (G2). Runner-up in the 2017 edition that was transferred to the sloppy main track, the Jeff Mullins charge duly prevailed in Saturday’s renewal on the Santa Anita turf.
In between those two San Gabriels, much had changed. A year ago, Itsinthepost was trying stakes company for the first time as an 8-1 chance. The French-bred son of American Post would go on to a career season in 2017. Scoring in the San Luis Rey (G2), Elkhorn (G2), and John Henry Turf Championship (G2), he placed in the San Marcos (G2) and Del Mar H. (G2) while finishing a better-than-appears fifth in both the Charles Whittingham (G2) and United Nations (G1).
Back down in grade after a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) last out, Itsinthepost rated as the 2-1 favorite and 124-pound highweight here, and he held sway under a well-judged Tyler Baze ride. As Smokey Image sped forward from his outside post to establish an opening quarter in :23.81, Itsinthepost was settled five lengths back in fourth. The favorite took closer order through fractions of :48.08 and 1:11.86, accosted Smokey Image straightening for home, and forged ahead.
Flamboyant, the 2016 San Gabriel winner who’d scratched from his title defense in the slop, swept from last in a bid to regain his crown. But Itsinthepost had gotten the jump on his compatriot and proved too good to relinquish it, maintaining a 1 1/4-length margin at the wire. By finishing 1 1/8 firm-turf miles in 1:47.59, Itsinthepost advanced his resume to 31-7-7-5, $855,707.
After the all-French exacta came Brazilian import Editore, who squeezed through on the rail to grab third from Smokey Image. Isotherm, sidelined since his fifth in the Santa Anita H. (G1) last March, checked in an even fifth in his debut for Phil D’Amato. Next came Free Rose, He Will, Win the Space, Tequila Joe, and Top of the Game.
Bred by Julien Leaunes in France, Itsinthepost was snapped up by his current connections after his first career win (in his fifth try as a juvenile) for Matthieu Palussiere at Marseille Borely. The now six-year-old gelding was produced by the winning Mozart mare Sakkara Star, and he descends from the influential Nalee, a full sister to Hall of Famer Shuvee.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Tim Cohen of Red Baron’s Barn on Itsinthepost: “We thought the speed would go and it looked like he (Tyler Baze) used him a little in the early part of the race but this is certainly what we were hoping for.
“It’s been gratifying to see him progress. The good thing is that Itsinthepost only had to spend a little time at Rancho Temescal early in his career, he was a bit colicky. The last two years he’s been at the track and just consistent as ever.”
“Jeff’s done a great job with him and so has Tyler. I talked to my dad (Jed Cohen) on the phone today at home and we thought it would set up like it did. The speed went and Tyler could sit and make a run.”
Winning trainer Jeff Mullins: “The cutback in distance is always a concern but the way he’s been training has just been unbelievable. He’s been full of energy and I knew if he got the trip he’d get the job done.
“We’ve never really had a plan with this horse, we just kind of go with the flow and when he tells us he’s ready to go, we go. But obviously, when a mile and a half races show up we have to start sharpening the knife.
“I think he’s definitely better at a mile and a quarter or further but as well as he’s been doing, he’s been really, really fresh, that I knew if he got the trip he’d be OK and he got that trip.
“We’ve had a few options thrown at us we’re just not sure what we’ll do yet.”
Winning rider Tyler Baze: “I looked at the Form and it was run the exact way I thought it would be. He always gives you 100 percent. He’s a barn favorite. Galindo gets on him in the mornings and he knows this horse so well, and then I get on him in the afternoons and I know him so well. It’s really been a team effort. It’s been special for all of us.
“I really just wanted to get him out of there and get to the right spot, let him get into a groove and it played out just the way I thought it would today.”
Drayden Van Dyke on runner-up Flamboyant: “It’s my first time riding him and I was a little surprised early because it seemed like he was a little lazy. But down the backside, I was smiling…I was wishing they were going a little faster in front because he came running. He ran big.”