03/30/2007 11:00PM

Fairbanks takes Tokyo City


ARCADIA, Calif. - Nearly two months later than expected, Fairbanks won his first stakes at Santa Anita, in Saturday's $107,200 Tokyo City Handicap.

The front-running win, by a convincing 6 3/4 lengths, left Barry Irwin, the managing partner of the Team Valor Stables, optimistic that Fairbanks can develop into a distance specialist this year.

"He wants to run a mile and a quarter," Irwin said.

Ridden by Richard Migliore, Fairbanks ($10.80) was never challenged on the front and pulled away to win easily. Fairbanks ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.87, after setting an early pace of 23.33 and 47.04 seconds.

"When I saw a half-mile in 47 and he was four lengths in front, I thought we were in good shape," said Michael McCarthy, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher also won the Florida Derby, Skip Away Handicap and Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and the Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct.

Neko Bay, the 8-5 favorite, closed from fourth to finish second. He got within three lengths of Fairbanks in early stretch but could not close ground on the leader. Racketeer finished third in the field of six older horses. Preachinatthebar, the 117-pound starting highweight, was third to the turn but faded through the stretch, finishing 10 1/4 lengths behind Fairbanks.

Fairbanks has won 4 of 8 starts and $147,263. In his previous start at this meeting, he finished sixth of seven in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap here on Feb. 4, a race that was intended to be a prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

Fairbanks emerged from the San Antonio with a damaged quarter that required a brief rest.

"This is what we thought would happen last time and we could have run in the Big Cap," Irwin said of Saturday's win.

Fairbanks, 4, will be sent to Belmont Park later this month.

"I'm sure he'll like Belmont," Irwin said.