04/02/2016 7:32PM

Bejarano's tactics pay off for Guns Loaded

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Rafael Bejarano had a firm blueprint for his ride on Guns Loaded in Saturday’s $101,380 San Simeon Stakes at Santa Anita.

Bejarano opted to track pacesetter Mr. Sexy for the first half of the race, a tactic that led to an easy win for Guns Loaded in the Grade 3  San Simeon Stakes at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

"I knew (Mr. Sexy) was the only speed in the race," Bejarano said. "I wanted to break and get in the right position. I had the second speed. It was very easy for me."

The race was the first of two stakes wins in a matter for minutes for trainer Doug O'Neill. Shortly after the San Simeon, Nyquist, the champion 2-year-old male of 2015, won the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park to solidify his position as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Guns Loaded was timed in 1:13.33. Bejarano had Guns Loaded in second until the field crossed onto the main turf course. Guns Loaded led by a half-length with a furlong to go and won the San Simeon by 1 1/4 lengths over 9-2 Cape Wolfe. No Silent, a 6-1 shot, finished third, followed by Hay Dude, Producer, Outside Nashville, Mr. Sexy, Aotearoa and Il Fornaio.

Guns Loaded has emerged as the top turf sprinter of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Claimed for $32,000 at Los Alamitos last December, Guns Loaded has won four of his last five starts, including the Joe Hernandez Stakes on the hillside turf course on Feb. 28.

Guns Loaded, a 5-year-old gelding by D’Wildcat, has won 8 of 26 starts and earned $406,570. He is owned by the partnership of Mark Verge, Neil Haymes, Leo Rodriguez and Steve Rothblum. Since being claimed, Guns Loaded has earned $168,300.