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Rock Hard Ten wins the 2005 Santa Anita Handicap

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Rock Hard Ten

Rock Hard Ten

Tina Hines
Updated March 07, 2005
The Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap is the most important race for older horses in North America during the winter. Although in recent years its fields have been reduced thanks to the Dubai World Cup run later in the month, this year a number of top handicap horses' connections opted to pass on the long trip and instead come to Santa Anita to compete for the winner's share of the $1 million purse. Eleven top older horses, including one mare (Island Fashion, second last year), went to post in this historic 1 1/4 mile battle over the main track. Sent off as the 11-10 favorite was Saint Liam, with Rock Hard Ten the 7-2 second choice.

In the early stages, 29-1 longshot Truly A Judge battled on the front end with 54-1 shot Grand Reward, through a quarter in 23.05, a half in 46.33, and 3/4 in 1:10.87 before the pacesetter gave way. At the top of the lane, Rock Hard Ten came on from fifth early on, and inside the 1/8 pole, collared the pacesetter to win by 1 3/4 lengths over late-closing 14-1 shot Congrats in a time of 2:01.20. It was just a length back to 25-1 shot Borrego in third. Favored Saint Liam stalked the early pace in third early but was three wide throughout and flattened out in the stretch, finishing sixth.

Trainer Richard Mandella, winning his third Big Cap, said, "He's such a nice horse to do what he's done. He hasn't raced that many times and he's accomplished everything now. To win the Grade I Malibu and now the Santa Anita Handicap, you've got to have a couple different gears to do that and he's pretty nice. I'll back off of him (now). We've given him a lot to do here and we'll give him a little bit of rest and what that means I don't know exactly but we'll give him a break because we want him to be good later in the year, too."

Winning rider Gary Stevens, after his fourth victory in this event, said, "Every year has turned into a blessing. I don't know how long I'll carry on for, but with this kind of horse ... I've kind of re-devoted myself this year, just concentrate on riding. I had some other things on the plate before, and I think I was just trying to mix too many things. So I made a full-on commitment for this year and I'm happy about it, especially riding a horse like this. I know I'm enjoying them more now (winning the SA Handicap). I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or what, but it's getting sweeter. I'm enjoying my days more. And enjoying riding more than I have in a long, long time. The sky's the limit for him (Rock Hard Ten). I think Richard said it best in the winner's circle that he's going to continue to improve. You haven't seen the best of him."

Tyler Baze, aboard second place finisher Congrats, said, "I'm just getting to know him. This is an awesome horse to ride. I can't thank Claiborne enough for letting me ride him, and Richard for having faith in me. Awesome horse. I kind of had to change his style today with so many horses on the lead. I got him out of the house and he made an awesome run. I thought he was going to fly right by everybody for a minute. But Rock Hard Ten's a game horse. They're both really nice horses."

Edgar Prado, aboard beaten favorite and 6th place finisher Saint Liam, said, "I was done on the backside. He was lugging in a little bit and it just wasn't him. He didn't handle the track very well. Something might have happened, I hope nothing happened. But on the backside he wasn't comfortable already, so I knew I was in trouble. He's normally a better horse than that. When you call him he responds right away. But today he was kind of shut down a little bit."

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