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San Gabriel’s Field Comes From All Three Surfaces

The San Gabriel Stakes (G2T), first of six stakes event on the opening day program at Santa Anita Park, has plenty of diversity in a compact field of six.

The cast of characters for the 1 1/8-mile turf event includes Missed the Cut , coming off a 12th-place finish on the dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1); Easter , last seen winning the Seabiscuit Handicap (G2T) on the turf at Del Mar; and War At Sea , winner in his last start in the Golden Gate Handicap (G3) on the all-weather track.

Meanwhile, half the original dozen nominees to the 1 1/8-mile event missed the cut for the day after Christmas.

Missed the Cut, a 4-year-old Quality Road   colt, won four of six starts on the turf in England as a 3-year-old and finished fourth, albeit beaten 14 1/2 lengths, when sent against some of the world’s best in the Neom Turf Cup (G2) in Saudi Arabia to start his 2023 season.

Trainer John Sadler took over the training chores from George Boughey when Missed the Cut was sent to the United States and Sadler decided to experiment with surfaces. 

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After a decent effort in a dirt allowance at Santa Anita June 11, Missed the Cut reported seventh in the San Diego Handicap (G2) on the Del Mar dirt July 29. Back on turf for the Del Mar Handicap (G2T) Sept. 2, he was a close fourth at the finish. That was followed by a victory on the dirt in the Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita before the Breeders’ Cup misfire.

“We’re going to go back to the grass with him this year,” Sadler said, clearly thinking of the San Gabriel as a reset for the 2024 season. “He didn’t fare well in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Just didn’t work out for him. He’s trained up good.”

Trainer Phil D’Amato has filled the entry box for California turf races during 2023 but left several of his charges on the sidelines for the San Gabriel with only Easter and Tio Magico  left to fly the barn’s flag.

Easter, despite the Christmastime placing, will attract support off the victory in the Seabiscuit. That backed up a win in the restricted Lure Stakes in his first California start Oct. 28. And that followed three competitive allowance efforts in New York.

In the Seabiscuit, the 5-year-old Exosphere  gelding led home stablemates Hong Kong Harry  and Balnikhov .

“It’s nice to see all three of my horses run well and the best horse won today,” D’Amato said. “Maybe it’s ‘Harry’ next time and maybe it’s Balnikhov after that.”

Or maybe not. Those two were original nominees to the San Gabriel but the trainer is giving them the day off while Tio Magico, a 5-year-old Uncle Mo   gelding, makes his first California stakes start.

War At Sea returns to the green course after winning his first-ever start on a synthetic surface. The 4-year-old War Front   colt, trained by Ron Ellis, got all three previous wins on the grass, consecutively, early in 2022 at Santa Anita.

Rounding out the field are Eastern Ocean , sixth in the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2T) in his last, and Astronaut , seventh in that same heat.

Entries: San Gabriel S. (G2T)

Santa Anita Park, Tuesday, December 26, 2023, Race 3

  • Grade IIT
  • 1 1/8m
  • Turf
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo’s & up
  • 12:00 PM (local)

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