San Juan Capistrano, CA – Pablo Gomez’ Quick Casablanca made a striking move around the final turn to take Sunday’s historic Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano by 2 3/4 lengths on closing day of the Santa Anita winter meet. The 8-year-old son of Until Sundown covered the 1 3/4 miles over yielding turf in 3:19.58 for trainer Ron McAnally, who first won the race with the immortal John Henry in 1980.
“He’s an old horse, he’s a pro,” said McAnally. “He’s been around a long time. He’s been to Chile, he’s been to New York, he’s been to Florida. He’s one professional horse, and he’s old, like me (83).”
Typically run down the hill and then all the way around the turf course, the rain received on Saturday caused the race to be run at two laps around the flat turf course for the first time in it’s history. Quick Casablanca and Tyler Baze were far and away last in the early going while California-bred Cardiac came out of the gate to command the early lead. Tracked from second by Kenjisstorm who traveled wide on the first turn, Cardiac relinquished his lead to that rival the first time down the backstretch. Kenjisstorm made his way to the rail entering the home stretch for the first time and clocked the first mile in 1:47.71.
The order remained largely unchanged until the field entered the clubhouse turn for the second and final time, at which point Baze couldn’t hold off on Quick Casablanca any longer. The older gelding swept through the turn four-wide and blew past the leaders as if they were standing still, quickly pulling out to a 2 3/4-length lead and coasting in to the wire. Generosidade closed well to finish second, and Life’s Journey maintained his pace to hang on for third.
“To do it for Mr. McAnally is so great, it feels special,” said Baze, winning the San Juan for the first time in his career. “He got an unlucky trip last time and he’s a wonderful horse to ride, very talented and he loves long distance races and they’re my favorite. It’s a race you watch as a kid wondering if it’s a race you could ever win and to finally have the chance to do that . . . to win it, it’s fantastic.
“In the paddock the only thing Mr. McAnally told me was to just gallop him the first time around. That was no problem, he’s a real cool horse, push-button, like a pony. I galloped that first mile and picked it up from there and tried to figure out how I was going to push the button because with him, it’s all or nothing. He was really flying that last three-eighths of a mile.”
Bred in Chile by Haras Matancilla, Quick Casablanca marked only the fifth win of his career in the San Juan Capistrano. His total record stands at 5-8-6 from 28 starts, with earnings of nearly $750,000.