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English import wins the Goodwood

Lightly raced 3-year-old Gitano Hernando shows up from England and defeats Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and top older horses in the Grade I, $350,000 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita.

October 11, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

Forget about a European invasion for next month's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. It's more likely to be a stampede after the lightly raced 3-year-old Gitano Hernando showed up from England on Saturday and came away victorious against Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and top older horses in the Grade I, $350,000 Goodwood Stakes.

To say that Gitano Hernando loves the synthetic surface would be an understatement. He set a track record for 1 1/16 miles in his last race at Wolverhampton on Polytrack, was shipped to Santa Anita and relished the Pro-Ride, winning the 1 1/8 -mile Goodwood by a neck over Colonel John as an 18-1 longshot, with Richard's Kid finishing third. Mine That Bird finished sixth in the field of 10.

"The message being sent is this Pro-Ride surface is very turf-friendly," said Gary Barber, who owns Gitano Hernando with Team Valor International and bought the horse as a 2-year-old after his maiden victory in England.

Ridden by five-time British riding champion Kieren Fallon and trained by Marco Botti, Gitano Hernando had won three of six starts in England, none in stakes races. But he was two for two on synthetics, and Aron Wellman, the racehorse administrator for Team Valor, said, "We thought he would be a superior horse on synthetics, and he proved it."

Said Fallon, who rides regularly in England: "My horse just wanted it more than the other horse. I honestly didn't think he could beat the likes of Colonel John, but he's just a very tough horse."

Gitano Hernando will stay and race in the United States, but whether he'll enter the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 7 remains to be seen. It would cost the owners a $250,000 supplemental fee to enter the race.

As for Mine That Bird, jockey Calvin Borel said his horse didn't take to the track very well. Last year at Santa Anita, Mine That Bird finished 12th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"When I asked him to go get them, he was struggling over the track a little bit," Borel said. "I do know one thing. He's a lot better horse on the dirt. When you ask him here, he goes to struggling instead of just running."

California sensation

There's no doubt that Magical Fantasy is the best female turf runner in California after she won her third consecutive Grade I stakes, taking the $300,000 Yellow Ribbon by a half length over Visit, with Black Mamba a nose back in third.

The big question is what happens when the 4-year-old daughter of Diesis takes on the top horses from Europe next month in a likely appearance in the $2-million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on the same course.

Ridden by jockey Alex Solis and trained by Paddy Gallagher, Magical Fantasy made her move around the final turn, gained the lead in deep stretch and never let up in covering covered the 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.59.

Pletcher import wins

Trainer Todd Pletcher has found out he has a versatile 4-year-old in Cowboy Cal, who went wire to wire to win the Grade II $150,000 Oak Tree mile on the turf, beating Global Hunter by three quarters of a length.

Cowboy Cal won the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita last February. It gives the East Coast-based Pletcher options for his next appearance in the Breeders' Cup.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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