With his victory in today's Grade 2 San Gabriel at Santa Anita, Kentucky Downs' Old Friends winner Next Shares has won three of four starts and is headed to the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf. Here's Santa Anita Park's stakes recap, with photos by Benoit.
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 5, 2019) -- With top jockey Joel Rosario sidelined by illness, replacement rider Geovanni Franco cleverly guided favored Next Shares to a thrilling nose victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes. Just up in the last jump, the Richard Baltas-trained gelding got 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.61.
"This is a very, very, very good horse," said Baltas. "I said earlier that he likes a little more cut in the ground, but he obviously handled this well. Geo rode a great race...He was a little far back, but this guy doesn't panic."
Next to last in a field of nine older horses with three furlongs to run, Franco stepped on the gas around the far turn and Next Shares, a 6-year-old Archarcharch gelding, made an eye catching move while caught four deep turning for home. With plenty of work to do three sixteenths from the wire, Next Shares sustained a resolute win that resulted in the closest of victories.
Most recently 13th in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile Nov. 3, Next Shares was off as the 8-5 favorite and paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80.
Owned by Michael Iavarone, Jules Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Christopher Dunn, William Marasa, Ritchie Robershaw and Mark Taylor, Next Shares, who is out of the Evansville Slew mare Two Dot Slew, picked up his third win in his last three starts, which included a victory in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland Oct. 6.
With the win, he's now 22-6-4-2 and with the winner's share of $120,000, he has earnings of $1,187,697.
"He broke out of there and we kind of got left a little bit, but Richard told me not to hurry, so I didn't," said Franco. "Down the lane the other horses were very game, but I think Next Shares heard everyone screaming and pulling for him and he got it done.
"I thought I won because I thought my horse had his nose down at the wire, but I knew it was close. This is the biggest pick-up mount I've ever had, for sure."
The win, understandably, had Next Shares sizable ownership contingent feeling giddy in the Winner's Circle.
"Yeah, he's going to the Pegasus," said Iavarone, in reference to the inaugural $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational going a mile and three sixteenths at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26. "It's all about the Pegasus right now. It's what we wanted and what we were hoping for. We tried to stretch him out with that in mind and it worked amazingly well. I told Geovanni to make sure to save a little for the Pegasus..."