The best older male horse in California avenged the second of his three career defeats by winning the Grade 2 $150,000 The Californian on Saturday at Hollywood Park.
In his 2010 debut last month, Rail Trip easily won the Grade 2 Mervyn Leroy. The 1-to-5 favorite had finished second in both races last year and has now won eight of 11 career starts, earning $967,790 for his owner Jay Em Ess Stable.
Rail Trip was able to sit off expected pace-setter One Track Mind until the top of the stretch before easily putting him away and winning under wraps by just under three lengths with plenty in reserve.
“He’s getting better and you can do anything you want with this horse. Today, he was cruising,” said jockey Rafael Bejarano after riding Rail Trip for the second time since taking over for Jose Valdivia Jr. who moved his tack to the East Coast. “He brings me a lot of confidence now. Especially, he’s doing everything right ... in the gate (and) post parade; he’s a very relaxed horse.”
Sangaree was able to complete the exacta behind Rail Trip for the second consecutive race, much to the delight of his trainer Bob Baffert who said, “A second to Rail Trip counts as a win in my book.”
A repeat victory in the Grade 1 $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10th is next on Rail Trip’s agenda, followed by a chance to make amends for his third place finish in last summer’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
“He’s a real versatile horse, which will come in handy somewhere down the line. In the Pacific Classic he learned to sit in behind and take dirt,” said trainer Ron Ellis. “He was a tough horse to work with early on in his career. He was a little on the speed crazy side. He settled down as the year went on and now Rafael’s done a great job riding him this year.”
With the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November the ultimate goal for the five-year-old gelded son of Jump Start, Ellis said he was not concerned that Rail Trip has not faced a challenge in his first two victories of 2010.
Bejarano, the meet’s leading rider with 51 wins, understands what a horse like Rail Trip can do for his thriving young career.
“I feel pressure riding this kind of horse. It’s a good opportunity for me,” he said. “This horse is going to improve a lot and he’s going to be really serious in the end.”
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