Updated on 09/15/2011 1:41PM

Irish Prize takes San Gabriel


ARCADIA, Calif. - After a series of losses in major races in late summer and fall, the comfort of the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap* (click here for chart) suited Irish Prize on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Rallying from the back of a large field, Irish Prize successfully defended his title with a head victory over an unlucky Sligo Bay.

The victory ended a three-race losing streak for Irish Prize, but was the 6-year-old's gelding fifth stakes win in the last year.

"He was due a little luck because he tries so hard," said trainer Neil Drysdale.

Irish Prize became the third horse in the last seven runnings of the San Gabriel to defend his title, preceded by Romarin (1995-96) and Brave Act (who won consecutive runnings on Dec. 29, 1998 and Jan. 1, 2000).

Irish Prize launched his 2001 campaign with a win in the San Gabriel Handicap on Jan. 1. He later won three stakes, including the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile.

In the late summer and fall, Irish Prize finished fourth in the Atto Mile and Breeders' Cup Mile and third in the Citation Handicap. Owned by Maktoum al Maktoum, Irish Prize has won 9 of 24 starts and $1,122,353.

Ridden by Gary Stevens on Sunday, Irish Prize appeared to be on his way to another tough trip after being bumped soundly at the start.

Irish Prize ($6) was at the back of the field until the final turn when Stevens launched a wide rally. Turning for home, Irish Prize was five-wide and quickly joined the leaders. He led inside the eighth pole, but may have lost the lead briefly to Sligo Bay in the last sixteenth. In the final strides, Irish Prize and Sligo Bay were head and head with Irish Prize prevailing narrowly. The final time for 1 1-8 miles on turf was 1:50.56.

"Gary had so much horse he didn't want to go through the field so he went wide," Drysdale said. "The other horse fought back, but we got the bob."El Gran Papa finished third in the field of 11, but might not have been the best of trainer Bobby Frankel's three starters. No Slip, who finished fourth, was trapped behind horses in early stretch and found room too late to make a difference. Northern Quest, Frankel's other starter, closed from last to finish sixth.

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