November 3, 2002
By Steve Schuelein
New Zealand import Master Belt (NZ) lit up the toteboard with a stunning upset in the $111,700 Morvich Handicap (G3) on Sunday at Santa Anita Park on the hillside turf course.
The four-year-old gelding rallied on the outside under jockey Tyler Baze to prevail in a blanket finish and provide the longest payoff in the 29-year history of the Morvich and the current 26-day Oak Tree meeting. He was 68.20-to-1, the longest shot in a field of ten, paying $138.40 to win.
"I just got him in April," said trainer Simon Bray of Master Belt, winner of the New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (NZ-G1) last November. "Southern Hemisphere horses are on a different biological clock, and we gave him time to adapt. He had been training well, his coat looked good, and we took our best shot today, although if we had finished third, I would have been happy."
Master Belt won the Morvich by a neck over I Love Silver, who finished a head in front of Kachamandi (Chi). Sarafan, prepping for a trip to the Japan Cup (Jpn-G1), finished strongly for fourth, a nose behind Kachamandi and 1 1/2 lengths in front of El Cielo.
Master Belt ran the about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside course in 1:12.26 on firm turf.
El Cielo, an eight-year-old gelding who had won the previous two runnings of the Morvich, made his first start since January as the 2.40-to-1 favorite