ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Shaman Ghost beat Midnight Storm by three-quarters of a length to win the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Shaman Ghost ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.57 and paid $4.60, $2.60 and $2.40 as the 6-5 favorite.
Owner-breeder Frank Stronach was on hand to see his 5-year-old horse win a big race at Santa Anita, which Stronach also owns. Last November, Shaman Ghost was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Classic on race day at the track after falling ill.
Stronach won his third Big 'Cap; Milwaukee Brew won in 2002 and '03.
"I was kind of sitting there quiet (watching the race)," he said. "He's had a lot of bad racing luck and he's better than what he has shown. Today it all worked out."
In January, Shaman Ghost finished second to Eclipse Award winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, another Stronach-owned track.
Midnight Storm returned $3 and $2.80 after winning six of his previous seven starts. Follow Me Crev was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $5 to show.
"It was the first time running the mile and a quarter on dirt," said Rafael Bejarano, who rode Midnight Storm. "He did a really good job."
After shipping in from Florida, Shaman Ghost stalked the pace in third before drifting out to the middle of the track in the stretch run before gaining the lead under Castellano's urging in front of 29,412 on an unusually hot day.
"I knew I had it won at the eighth pole," Castellano said. "I asked him for full speed at the eighth pole and he gave it to me right away. I said, 'Yes!'"
Like Stronach, winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens also found some luck at Santa Anita. A year ago, he brought Effinex to the track for the Big 'Cap only to have the horse finish third as the favorite after coming down with hives.
Castellano moved Shaman Ghost to the outside, away from dirt flying in his face, as they turned for home.
"He's been showing up in all of his races," Jerkens said, "so I think he should get some respect now."
The victory, worth $450,000, increased Shaman Ghost's career earnings to $3,539,311, with seven wins in 15 starts.
"With not a lot of speed in the race, I had to ask him a little, put him really close to the pace and he responded," Castellano said. "Very classy horse."
The race was missing two big names among older horses: Arrogate and Hoppertunity. Both are set to run in Dubai later this month.
Argentina-bred Hi Happy was fourth, followed by Isotherm, Hard Aces, Twentytwentyvision, Gangster and Imperative.
In other stakes:
— Bal a Bali won the $400,345 Frank E. Kilroe Mile by a head over defending champion What a View.
Ridden by Castellano, Brazil-bred Bal a Bali ran the distance in 1:33.86 and paid $22.20. He finished third last year.
Dortmund was last in the six-horse field in his turf debut for trainer Art Sherman, extending his losing skid to five races dating to last year. Dortmund was previously trained by Bob Baffert before he and owner Kaleem Shah split.
— Denman's Call won the $400,690 Triple Bend Stakes by a length in an upset over 1-2 favorite Masochistic.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Denman's Call ran seven furlongs in 1:20.94 and paid $35.40 to win.
Masochistic won the race two years ago. He was making his first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last November and later being disqualified from the $255,000 purse money for testing positive for a steroid.