Led by Ron the Greek, Sunshine State products could have
a big say in today’s Santa Anita Handicap
Today’s $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) is traditionally one of the most popular racing days on the calendar in Southern California. While home-based runners figure prominently in deciding the outcome of today’s event—being run for the 75th time—horses from Florida could very well be heard from in the marathon 1 ¼-mile test.
Florida-bred Ron the Greek looked sensational in winning two stakes at Aqueduct to close out his 2011 campaign. He shipped to Payson Park in South Florida with trainer Bill Mott’s string and most recently finished a strong second to Mucho Macho Man in the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.
Ron the Greek rallied three-wide on the far turn of that 1 1/8- mile race and closed plenty of ground through the lane under Jose Lezcano to finish 1 ½ lengths behind the winner. Lezcano makes the trip west to ride once more.
The son of Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds stallion Full Mandate has won five of 16 lifetime starts and has earned $319,665.
If Mott thinks enough of his charge to ship him across the country, he should be viewed as a major player and threat to morning line favorite Ultimate Eagle and the rest of the California contingent.
Florida-bred Gladding, a son of Sarava, owns plenty of early speed. He hasn’t started since a fourth-place finish in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Churchill Downs last November.
He is a two-time winner over the Santa Anita strip. He captured last year’s San Antonio Stakes (G2) and finished 10th in last year’s Big ‘Cap.
All told, Gladding was won three of 13 starts for earnings of $205,200. Santa Anita’s leading rider Joel Rosario has the call for trainer John Sadler.
Rounding out the Florida-bred trio is Victory Pete. The 7-year-old son of Five Star Day finished a distant third most recently in the San Antonio behind Game on Dude and Uh Oh Bango. He is a multiple graded stakes-placed runner from the barn of Alexis Barba. Corey Nakatani is slated to ride.
Photo of Ron the Greek courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese photo