"I thought he'd got beat at the head of the stretch," exclaimed the usually implacable Frankel. "I usually don't root, but I was rooting him home."
The 5-year-old Mazel Trick horse completed the six-furlong test for older horses in 1:09 1/5 to gut out his third consecutive victory since teaming with Baze. Jet West, who closed strongly on the outside for Corey Nakatani, came up just short while heading 3-2 favorite Attila's Storm and Patrick Valenzuela for second in a rousing finish.
Attila's Storm had a dream trip racing in second on the inside while tracking the pacesetting mare, Papa to Kinzie, who ran off the rail through swift fractions of :21 3/5 and :44 2/5. Attila's Storm came through along the inside and assumed the lead on the turn as Major Success lost some ground while racing wide. But Major Success, tackled on the outside by Jet West in mid-stretch, prevailed under strong urging from Baze in the long drive.
The lightly raced Major Success, bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Zureick and William Russell, was produced by the Damascus mare Veil Dance. The dark bay, who had modest success as a router earlier in his career, had posted back-to-back wins in optional allowance/claiming sprints at Hollywood Park late last year. In his most recent win Dec. 19, he finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of five rivals while clocking 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.
"He's a very honest horse and very nice to ride," Baze said. "He's a big horse. Those other two races I won on him, once he switched leads then he really kicked. He's just so game."
Major Success earned $90,000 for his fifth win in nine starts, upping his total to $208,700.
Asked about moving him into a graded stakes for the first time, Frankel responded, "You want to know the truth, there's no other races for him."
Frankel's third stakes win of the meet was his 116th all time at Santa Anita (not including Oak Tree), second to Charlie Whittingham's 204. He also ranks second in career wins at Santa Anita with 832 to Whittingham's 869. Frankel won the 1983 Palos Verdes with Fighting Fit.
The second choice in the field of seven, Major Success paid $8, $4.60, and $2.80. Jet West, who lost the El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) by a head in his last start, returned $4.40 and $2.60, completing a $36.80 exacta.
"Boy this is disappointing," trainer Ted H. West said of the runner-up. "We're two heads away from being undefeated this year. You hate to be second when you really feel like you could've won."
Attila's Storm, who ran second in the opening day Malibu (gr. I) at Santa Anita Dec. 26 after winning the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct before that, was $2.20 to show.
"He seemed to not have it when he really needed it late," New York-based trainer Richard Schosberg said. "He ran a game race, but I don't think he was at his best. He looked like he was a little dull beforehand. I think we'll look to take him back (east), give him a little time off, freshen him up, and then come up with a plan for the spring and summer."
Gray Black N White finished fourth, followed by Stalking Tiger, Papa to Kinzie, and El Conejo winner With Distinction, who bobbled at the start under Garrett Gomez and ran last all the way around.
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