West Point Thoroughbreds’ Kanthaka may not have earned any points toward making the gate for the May 5 Kentucky Derby with his impressive upset in Saturday’s $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita, but he sure signaled it’s just a matter of time. In his stakes debut, the handsome son of Jimmy Creed bested a field of five other very talented sophomores by 3 ½ lengths as the second longest shot at more than 11-1.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Kanthaka was ridden to victory by Flavien Prat and rewarded his backers with payouts of $24.20, $7.20 and $4.80. Nero, who was “the other Baffert” at odds of more than 9-1 when he crossed the wire 12 lengths ahead of third-place finisher All Out Blitz, completing a respectable $94.50 exacta, while returning $7.80 and $5.60. All Out Blitz paid $5 and the 50-cent trifecta $192.90.
The 2-5 favorite Ax Man, Kris’ Rocket Cat and Mr. Jagermeister followed the top three under the wire.
After the break, the speedy Minnesota-bred stakes winner Mr. Jagermeister sped right to the lead where he showed the way through early splits of :22 and :44.25 with the favorite and the runner-up hot on his heels on each side. As the frontrunner tired heading around the far bend, Kanthaka was moving strongly under Prat after sitting in front of just one all the way up the backstretch.
Nero made the front as Mr. Jagermeister retreated, while Kanthaka was in full flight and circling around his tiring rivals four-wide at the top of the stretch. Despite drifting in toward the rail in deep stretch, Kanthaka continued on easily to the wire under little more than a hand ride from Prat.
“He gave me a great run and he did everything right,” Prat said. “He broke like a bullet but then we had quite a lot of speed in front of us. So he sat really nicely behind the speed and made a really nice run around the turn and after that it was done.”
Kanthaka, who was named after a favorite horse belonging to Nepalese prince Siddartha and is widely represented Buddhist art, was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm and was purchased by his current connections for $140,000 as a Barretts 2-year-old in training 11 months ago. Since then, the son of the Noonmark mare Sliced Bread has won two of three career starts and has now banked $153,440 thanks to the $120,000 he earned for his initial stakes win.
Kanthaka’s connection originally hoped to run him in a first-level allowance race after he broke his maiden seven weeks ago, but when that race didn’t fill they decided to try stakes company in the San Vicente instead. It was a fortuitous twist of fate for the well-known racing syndicate.
“This feels great. It never gets old,” West Point’s Jeff Lifson said of the ownership group’s 100th stakes victory. “We were hoping that he can rate and not get too far behind the speed and Flavien just rode him perfectly. He responded well in the stretch and we knew he tries really hard and he lived up to what we thought he would do. So, we’re really happy. We’re hoping that he can stretch out. We’ll find that out but I have a feeling we’ll try two turns and will see how it goes.”
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.