Victor Espinoza, Newgrange win the San Pasqual Stakes – Orange County Register

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ARCADIA — Somewhat surprisingly, only eight horses have parlayed success in the 85 editions of the San Pasqual Stakes, the final major prep for the Santa Anita Handicap, into a trip to the winner’s circle on Big ‘Cap day.

The last to do it was Express Train in 2022, four years after Accelerate turned the trick. Others to accomplish the San Pasqual-Big ‘Cap double include Farma Way (1991), Ack Ack (1971), Pretense (1967), Bobby Brocato (1956), Moonrush (1951) and Thumbs Up (1945).

The Big ‘Cap, because of the advent of lucrative races like the $20 million Saudi Cup, $12 million Dubai World Cup and $3 million Pegasus World Cup, doesn’t attract the same type of standouts it once did when it was the first $100,000 race in North America and later offered a $1 million purse.

Newgrange may get the opportunity to become the ninth horse to record the San Pasqual-Big ‘Cap double after veteran jockey Victor Espinoza guided the 5-year-old son of Violence to a gate-to-wire victory in the latest edition of the $200,000 Grade II San Pasqual at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Espinoza, who’s ridden sparingly during Santa Anita’s Classic Meet, had won with only one of his 14 mounts heading into the San Pasqual. It was his first stakes victory of 2024 while riding for Philip D’Amato, a trainer he rarely works with. The San Pasqual was his only mount of the day.

The winner, who surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings with the winner’s share of $120,000, loves Santa Anita. He’s won five of seven over the main track and has won two consecutive stakes, taking the Grade II San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.

It’s tempting for the horse’s connections to come back in the Big ‘Cap, but D’Amato and the owners are looking at Dubai on March 30. A race worth $11.6 million more than the Big ‘Cap holds much appeal in the sport of kings.

“It’s going to be even tougher there, but the money is incredible so we can do something like that,” D’Amato said. “We could stay home, but these guys (owners) in the winner’s circle, I think they are on board for Dubai.”

Owners Rockingham Ranch, David Bernsen and Little Red Feather Racing had to be smiling while watching Espinoza ride Newgrange to perfection.

“It was great,” the 51-year-old native of Mexico said. “I wanted to just bounce out of there and see what everyone wanted to do. I knew I had the best horse in the race … I was able to just bounce out of there, go to the lead and control the race and that was it.”

Sent postward in the field of seven as the 2-1 second choice behind 8-5 favorite Newgate, Newgrange beat Newgate by one length while running the mile and an eighth in 1:49.26. Mixto, an 11-1 longshot, was three-quarters of a length farther back in third.

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