It wasn't nearly as easy as his 1-5 odds suggested it would be, but 'TDN Rising Star' Nadal (Blame) survived a grueling pace and gutted out a hard-fought win that would have made his notoriously tenacious namesake proud in Sunday's GII San Vicente S. at Santa Anita, the promising colt's first step along the GI Kentucky Derby trail.
Garnering expectations early on after commanding $700,000 as a :10 flat Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream breezer, the bay showed up to his Jan. 19 debut with a sharp worktab and delivered on 6-5 favoritism with a 3 3/4-length frontrunning success and a 98 Beyer despite breaking a bit tardily. Drilling sharply twice over this track in the interim and back in three weeks here, Nadal was clearly the public's pick and broke more smoothly this time around. Deferring the lead narrowly under Joel Rosario, he sat a close-up second as Ginobili clicked off a :21.81 quarter, with huge longshot Party Town (Shackleford) to their inside in third. Eclipse champion juvenile Storm the Court (Court Vision), making his 3-year-old debut, tracked from fourth of a tight pack down the backside. Party Town was the first to give way, leaving it to Nadal and Ginobili to spar through a scorching :44.09 half.
Those two arrived at the top of the stretch together, with Ginobili surprisingly forging a narrow lead past the three-sixteenths marker. Nadal, however, was hand ridden by Rosario and responded to poke his nose back in front once set down nearing the furlong grounds.
Ginobili, game and determined, took one final try at the favorite in the final 100 yards, but could not quite get to him, as the Bob Baffert trainee hit the wire a determined half-length in front of his pesky rival. Fast Enough (Eddington) completed the trifecta, with Storm the Court checking in an even fourth.
“Today, I told Joel, 'Don't get cute, just go,'” said winning trainer Bob Baffert. “They took it to him, but if we're gonna get beat, get beat. I trained him light for this, so this is my serious work. I thought he was gonna get beat. He got to gut it out today, so he's got a good foundation now. This should set him up pretty good and I think we'll go to the [Mar. 14 GII] Rebel.”
“He broke sharp and he handled the pressure from the outside. I was never worried about it,” said Rosario. “My horse was moving very well and I was confident because I could feel I had a lot of horse under me. He was very impressive. He ran very fast today and he runs like he'll like two turns, but you never know until they do it.”
“This horse looks like it could be a special horse,” added winning co-owner George Bolton. “You just want him to be happy and hold together. He will be on the road now. He'll be on different surfaces and he's going to go a different distance yet again, so he will go maybe go to the Rebel. I'm proud we got that chance. I'm extremely happy about everything that has happened here.”
As for runner-up Ginobili, trainer Richard Baltas commented, “At the quarter pole, I thought I might get [Nadal]. We've got a nice colt, I just don't think he wants to go very far. He ran great and I'm very proud of him.”
With the victory, Nadal becomes the 29th stakes winner and 16th graded stakes winner for his sire. He is the second and final foal to race out of Ascending Angel, who died in 2017. Second dam Solar Colony is a full-sister to 1991's Champion 2-year-old filly Pleasant Stage, as well as MGSW Stage Colony, GSW Colonial Play–producer of MGISW Marsh Sire (Gone West)–and the dam of GISW Changeintheweather (Gone West). Third dam Meteor Stage is a half to GISWs A Phenomenon (Tentam) and Seattle Meteor (Seattle Slew).
Saturday, Santa Anita
SAN VICENTE S.-GII, $200,500, Santa Anita, 2-9, 3yo, 7f, 1:22.59, ft.
1–NADAL, 120, c, 3, by Blame
1st Dam: Ascending Angel, by Pulpit
2nd Dam: Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony
3rd Dam: Meteor Stage, by Stage Door Johnny
'TDN Rising Star' 1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES
WIN. ($65,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP; $700,000 2yo '19 FTFMAR).
O-George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman & Mark
Mathiesen; B-Sierra Farm (KY); T-Bob Baffert; J-Joel Rosario.
$120,000. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0, $153,000. Werk Nick
Rating: A+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Ginobili, 120, c, 3, Munnings–Find the Humor, by Sharp
Humor. ($35,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Slam Dunk Racing, Richard
Baltas, Jerry McClanahan & Michael Nentwig; B-Hinkle Farms
(KY); T-Richard Baltas. $40,000.
3–Fast Enough, 124, g, 3, Eddington–Brilliant Melody, by
Bertrando. O/B-Craig Martin (KY); T-Rafael Becerra. $24,000.
Margins: 3/4, 1 1/4, NK. Odds: 0.30, 12.90, 14.40.
Also Ran: Storm the Court, Ra'ad, Party Town. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.