Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

Idol gives Rosario another Big ’Cap winner

- By Art Wilson

Joel Rosario doesn’t ride regularly in Southern California anymore, but he’s owned the Santa Anita Handicap the past three years while establishi­ng himself as one of the nation’s top jockeys.

Rosario, 36, made it three consecutiv­e victories in the historic Big ’Cap on Saturday at Santa Anita, charging home aboard Idol to get up and beat Express Train by a half-length in the final strides.

While winning the $400,000 Grade I Big ’Cap has become old hat for Rosario, Idol gave 59-yearold trainer Richard Baltas his first victory in a race that is the oldest continuall­y run $100,000 stakes in America since its inaugural running in 1935.

Rosario must like the drama of a close finish, too. He beat McKinzie aboard Gift Box by a nose in 2019 and rode Combatant to victory by a neck last year, giving trainer John Sadler and his principal client, Hronis Racing, their third consecutiv­e Big ’Cap wins. Team Sadler/Hronis also won in 2018 when Victor Espinoza rode Accelerate to victory.

“It’s unbelievab­le,” Baltas said.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 13 years old. Before I even got to be a horse trainer, I saw all the greats run here in the Big ’Cap and you never think that you’re gonna be here.”

Idol, a lightly raced 4-year-old Curlin colt, didn’t let a wide trip detour him. He rallied five-wide around the turn for home as the 5-1 fourth wagering choice and got up for his third victory in six starts.

Final time for the 1¼ miles was 2:02.46.

“My horse loves this distance,” Rosario said. “I just wanted to keep him away from the rail, and he handled it easily. He responded when it came time to run, and he had some kick ... what a strong finish today. He ran really big.”

Maxfield, the even-money favorite, suffered his first loss in six career starts, finishing third, 1½ lengths behind Express Train, while racing four-wide the entire way under Florent Geroux. neck, giving trainer Dan Blacker the first Grade I win of his career. The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready, the 4-1 second choice, ran the 1 mile in 1:34.48. Count Again finished third, a neck behind Smooth Like Strait, the 5-2 favorite. The top six finishers were separated by less than a length.

 ?? KEITH BIRMINGHAM — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Joel Rosario rides the Richard Baltas-trained Idol to a half-length victory in the $400,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.
KEITH BIRMINGHAM — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Joel Rosario rides the Richard Baltas-trained Idol to a half-length victory in the $400,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.

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