Shaman Ghost Wins Santa Anita Handicap

Shaman Ghost on his way to winning the Santa Anita Handicap. Photo by Nicholas Keith.

Javier Castellano aboard Shaman Ghost after the Santa Anita Handicap. Photo by Terri Keith.

Shaman Ghost — who was shipped across the country this week for Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap — rewarded his connections with his second career Grade 1 win after a stretch duel with Midnight Storm.

With jockey Javier Castellano aboard, Shaman Ghost went off favored and finished the 1 1/4-mile race in 2:01:57. He finished three-quarters of a length in front of the bettors’ second choice, Midnight Storm, who was 4 1/2 lengths clear of the third-place finisher Follow Me Crev.

A $2 win bet on Shaman Ghost paid $4.60, with place and show bets paying $2.60 and $2.40, respectively.

It was Shaman Ghost’s seventh win in 15 starts and the third in the “Big Cap” for Shaman Ghost’s owner, Frank Stronach of Stronach Stables.

Stronach — whose Stronach Group owns Santa Anita Park — won the race in 2002 and 2003 with Milwaukee Brew. But he told reporters that it was “better” this time around since the 5-year-old son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper is a homebred.

“Well, Shaman Ghost (has) had a lot of bad racing luck,” Stronach said after Shaman Ghost’s win in the $751,035 race. “I think he’s a better horse than what we’ve seen.”

Shaman Ghost had finished second Jan. 28 in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park to last year’s 3-year-old champion male Arrogate, and came in third behind Gun Runner and Breaking Lucky in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last November.

He beat the likes of Mubtaahij and Frosted for his first Grade 1 win in the Woodward last September at Saratoga.

Shaman Ghost’s trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, described the horse as “relentless.”

“He’s one of those throwback horses,” he said. “He’s the epitome of the handicap horse like they used to have, but you don’t see much any more. They’re retired before they become handicap horses.”

Jerkens told reporters that Shaman Ghost has had “good energy all week” — unlike his last trip to Santa Anita last November when he had to be scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic after he spiked a temperature.

“It was the direct opposite this time,” the trainer said.

As for what’s next for Shaman Ghost, Jerkens said he doesn’t sit down and map out races.

“I don’t think it’s good luck to do that, too presumptuous to do that, just the one race at a time,” he said, noting that “this wasn’t definite ’til a week ago.”

It was Jerkens’ second consecutive trip to California for the Santa Anita Handicap.

He recalled that his entry last year, Effinex, who went off favored, broke out in hives before the race and that “it looks terrible to the public” in the paddock. Effinex ended up finishing third to Melatonin and Hard Aces.

The second-place finisher, Midnight Storm, ran another strong race. He had won five of his last six races, with wins in the Grade 2 San Pasqual and the Grade 3 Native Diver on dirt in his last two starts and three stakes wins on the turf last year, including the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile.

Meanwhile, the undefeated Mastery extended his winning streak to four in the Grade 2 San Felipe. But the celebration was short-lived after jockey Mike Smith pulled the colt up shortly after his 6 3/4-length win.

The 3-year-old son of Candy Ride was vanned off the track as his connections were left to take photos in the winner’s circle without their highly regarded colt, who had been considered among the top Kentucky Derby contenders.

After going back to the barn, Mastery’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said it had been determined that Mastery had “some filling in his left front ankle” and had suffered a condylar fracture that will require surgery Monday.

“We won’t know until after the surgery whether or not this is career-ending,” Baffert said.
He said he hadn’t even aware been something was wrong with Mastery after the race until a fan commented, “I hope your horse is alright.” He said things quickly changed for him “from the highest of highs.”

Horse Bits

— Trainer Doug O’Neill had hoped to race Denman’s Call in an allowance race, but he had to look elsewhere when that race didn’t fill.

“Thankfully the allowance race didn’t go,” O’Neill said shortly after Denman’s Call won the Grade 1 Triple Bend by a length over the heavy favorite Masochistic.

It was the second victory in eight starts for the 4-year-old son of Northern Afleet, who paid $35.40 to win.

“We’ll talk to the owners and put our heads together, but we’re going to enjoy the heck out of this,” O’Neill said.

He said it would probably be a “dream goal” for Denman’s Call to get a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar this fall.

— Brazilian Triple Crown winner Bal a Bali recorded an upset as the longest shot in the field at 9-1 odds in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf.

Bal a Bali — who finished third in the Kilroe Mile last year to this year’s runner-up What a View — suffered from laminitis while in quarantine in 2014 after being shipped from Brazil.

“It’s quite a feat for a horse to overcome something like that and come back and run — let alone win a Grade 1 race — so I couldn’t feel more excited,” Bal a Bali’s trainer, Richard Mandella, said.

When asked what the next step for Bal a Bali will be, Mandella said, “I’m going to enjoy this.”

Dortmund finished last as the bettors’ second choice in the Kilroe Mile in his first try on turf and his first start for trainer Art Sherman after being moved from Bob Baffert’s barn.