Milwakee Brew winner of the 2002 and 2003 Santa Anita Handicaps.
As a welcome change of pace from the Triple Crown build-up, this weekend featured the Grade One $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, the winter showcase race for the handicap division.Despite its long history, only one horse has ever won this race twice, that being the great John Henry in 1981 and 1982 even if one win was via a disqualification.Defending champion Milwaukee Brew was back to try to be the second repeat winner, and the Bobby Frankel trainee was sent off as the almost 4-1 third choice behind heavy 3-5 favorite Congaree. A compact field of only six faced the starter, reduced from the originally drawn seven due to Sligo Bay being scratched due to a foot problem.
As expected, longest shot Trompolino went right to the front to set early fractions of 23.28, 46.70, and 1:11.24 with Congaree and Milwaukee Brew stalking right alongside. By the top of the stretch he dropped out of contention, relinquishing the lead to the stalking pair.
In the stretch with Congaree on the inside and Milwaukee Brew coming up along side him.
Milwaukee Brew is not only the second repeat winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, but he is the only horse to actually finish in front twice since John Henry's 1982 win was by a disqualification. His share of the big purse pushed his career earnings to almost $2.8 million.
Jockey Edgar Prado, in his second $1 million race win, said, "Bobby [trainer Frankel] told me to sit closer to the pace than usual, not to let Congaree get away. It worked out great. He was running pretty easy all the way around. He really gave me everything he had. I knew I had a good chance to win because my horse runs the best the last part."
Trainer Bobby Frankel said, "You have to have a horse at its peak performance two years in a row for a race like this. We didn't race him hard last year after this race. Mr. Stronach told me to take it easy and have him ready for the end of the year. We took it easy with him and he didn't have a hard year last year"
Congaree's trainer Bob Baffert said, "Considering he was giving five pounds away, you can't take anything away from Congaree. It's heartbreaking he could run that well and not win, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Photos ©2003 Cindy Pierson Dulay, licensed to About.