It almost seems too ironic to believe. A talented yet unproven gelding named Melatonin would earn his first career stakes victory in one of the most historical and prestigious races on Daylight Savings Day by catching all of his rivals asleep at the wheel.
Yet, on Saturday, that’s exactly what happened and, as if he were following some sort of a racing script written specifically for him and his unique name, the Terabilla Farms color-bearer easily captured Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (GI) by virtually putting all of his rivals to sleep long enough to steal away to an impressive 3 3/4-length victory over eight rivals.
The Kentucky-bred son of Kodiak Cowboy and the Posse mare Yanquee Reign had spent his entire 10-race career following the path his connections felt his pedigree dictated — sprinting — and fairly successfully at that, yet without any big breakout performances. All that changed in his last start before the Big ‘Cap, however, as he stretched out around two turns and dazzled with a 3 3/4-length triumph in allowance company, setting him up for the biggest challenge of his career so far.
It took some convincing from jockey Joe Talamo and his agent, Scott McLellan, to get Melatonin’s trainer, David Hofmans, to agree that the Big ‘Cap was the logical next step and to enter the 1 1/4-mile feature.
“Joe was instrumental in running in this race,” Hofmans said. “Joe and his agent were insistent that we go. After his last race he said we have to run here. Joe was convinced after his last race. He said, ‘He loves this race track, he’s so strong and (he) had so much horse left, I think he wants to run even farther,’ and I was convinced he was a miler.”
So with that kind of confidence on his back, Melatonin broke like a rocket from the gate under Talamo and established his position on the front end early, looking deceptively comfortable setting all the pace in quick splits of :22.82, :46.28, 1:10.81 and 1:36.47 while under some serious pressure from behind. Though briefly challenged at the top of the stretch, Melatonin dug in with all his might down the lane to turn back any challenges and drew away to the 4 1/4-length victory. At odds of 16-1, Melatonin returned $34.60, $13.80 and $6.
Longshot Hard Aces held off the late charge from Enffinex to earn second at odds of nearly 23-1 and paid $19.20 and $7.20. Enffinex, who was a half-length back in third, paid $2.80 as the 7-5 favorite. The exact was good for $245.40 and the trifecta $951.70.
“What a tremendous effort. I think I need some Melatonin right now to calm down from it,” Talamo joked. “You don’t really know until you try the distance and I didn’t think it was going to be a problem. Last time he made the lead pretty early and he kind of started to wait on horses and that’s when I knew I still had horse left. He’s a fun horse to ride, I’m just so grateful for the opportunity.”
Melatonin’s win wasn’t without some controversy and an inquiry from Santa Anita stewards, however. Paul Reddam’s highly regarded Donworth was rank from the get-go, tugging at jockey Mario Gutierrez for three-quarters of a mile while sitting just behind the front-running winner. As Melatonin made his way around the bend, Donworth had had enough of the fight and forged his way forward, getting caught in tight quarters between the winner and the rail and clipping heels, quickly righting himself and narrowly avoiding disaster.
The stewards ruled that Donworth caused his own trouble and the result stood, much to the relief of his thrilled rider.
“I felt Mario clip heels with me but I was more surprised, there wasn’t much room in there,” Talamo explained. “I wasn’t aware that he was having any trouble with his horse.
“It wasn’t a hard hit. It’s not like it stopped Melatonin’s stride or anything. I felt a little something though.”
Melatonin won $600,000 for his first stakes score, boosting his lifetime earnings to $768,552 with a record of 11-4-2-3. He was a $20,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2012. His connections all won the event for the first time as well.
What a View Goes Wire to Wire in the Kilroe Mile
Sal Berumen, Robert Riggio and the Elwood Johnston Trust, et al’s What a View sprung an impressive wire-to-wire upset and earned his first career Grade I score in Saturday’s talent-rich Frank E. Kilroe Mile (GIT) on the Big ‘Cap undercard.
Ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux through splits of :22.65, :46.25, 1:10.17 and 1:22.64, What a View was never seriously threatened and easily drew away to victory, halting the Teletimer in 1:35.57 on a turf course listed as “good.” The 5-year-old California-bred son of Vronsky is trained by former jockey Kenny Black.
“Well from the view I had everyone was going for the lead and this guy loves that. The faster, the better,” Desormeaux explained. “I thought that if they all wanted to come at him, then he’d run them into the ground and I wanted to try and win the race that way.”
What a View left the gate as the second-longest shot on the board at odds of 6-1 and paid $14, $5.80 and $3.40. Bolo ran strongly to earn second, returning $3.80 and $2.80 as the 2-1 post time favorite. Bal a Bali was nosed out to earn third and returned $2.60 at nearly 5-2. Midnight Storm, Kenjisstorm and Om completed the order of finish after De Greville was scratched in the post parade.