Ax Man Falters at 2-5
By Dick Downey
The seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita doesn't carry any Kentucky Derby points, but it produced at least one runner we're likely to see stretching out down the Derby Trail.
Kanthaka, who was seven lengths off the pace after the first half-mile, came flying midway through the turn under Flavien Prat to run down Nero and win going away.
Longshot Mr. Jagermeister battled outside 2-5 favorite Ax Man and inside Nero through the first quarter-mile in a torrid 22.00 seconds and a half in virtually an equally fast pace of 44.25. As they ran into the stretch, Mr. Jagermeister, then Ax Man, gave way to Nero, but Kanthaka's rally was not to be denied. He led Nero by 1 1/2 length at the furlong marker and hit the finish line 3 1/4 lengths in front, timed in 1:22.62.
Third finisher All Out Blitz lost by 15 1/4 lengths, and he was followed under the wire by Ax Man, Kris' Rocket Kat and Mr. Jagermeister.
At 11-1, Kanthaka had the second-highest odds in the field. He paid $24.20 to win, $7.20 to place and $4.80 to show.
The winner is nominated to the Triple Crown, as is Nero. Kanthaka's connections indicated in the winner's circle that two turns could very well be on his horizon, with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer to have the final say.
Kanthaka, a colt by Jimmy Creed out of Sliced Bread, by Noonmark, recorded his second win in three starts. He broke his maiden going the San Vicente distance at the track in December.
Kanthaka, pronounced Kan-TAK-a, was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm LLC and was purchased by West Point Thoroughbreds for $140,000 at the Barretts Equine Limited Selected 2-year-olds in training sale in March 2017.
Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer: “We thought we had a good chance because we thought a lot of speed would be in there, which there was. They went 22 and 44, so we thought we might have a chance to close them down, especially the way he broke his maiden. He got in trouble, and then still won, so that was pretty impressive. We’re going to monitor things and see how it goes.”
Winning jockey Flavien Prat: “He gave me a great run and he did everything right. He broke like a bullet, but then we had quite a lot of speed in front of us. So he sat really nicely behind the speed and made a really nice run around the turn, and after that it was done.”
Jeff Lifson of West Point Thoroughbreds: “This feels great. It never gets old. We were hoping that he can rate and not get too far behind the speed, and Flavien just rode him perfectly. He responded well in the stretch, and we knew he tries really hard, and he lived up to what we thought he would do. So, we’re really happy. We’re hoping that he can stretch out. We’ll find that out, but I have a feeling we’ll try two turns and will see how it goes.
Drayden Van Dyke, aboard Ax Man: “I was completely screwed by the two (Mr. Jaggermeister). He had me down on the rail, and he was done at the three eighths pole, but he kept me in tight. My horse got tired, but he never got a breather. I would completely throw this race out.”