Updated on 09/16/2011 8:27AM

Johar wins Oak Tree Derby


ARCADIA, Calif. - Following a spring and summer in which he flirted with winning his first stakes, Johar finally completed the job in Sunday's $150,000 at Santa Anita.

With a determined rally in the final furlong under jockey Alex Solis, Johar ($7.80) nipped Rock Opera at the finish of the Derby, finishing 1 1-8 miles on turf in a stakes record time of 1:46.

The victory was a relief to trainer Richard Mandella, who watched Johar finish second or third in four stakes this year. "Today, I was thinking, He hung again, but he didn't," Mandella said. "They were really running."

Ridden by Alex Solis, Johar was fifth on the backstretch, racing off the rail and well off the pace of Sunkosi who led to the final turn. Rock Opera, a stakes winner at Del Mar, engaged Sunkosi at the quarter pole and took over in early stretch.

Johar was third in midstretch behind Rock Opera and Inesperado and closed steadily in the final furlong to reach the wire a nose in front of Rock Opera.

"I thought I was going to the winner's circle," said Clifford Sise, who trains Rock Opera. "We were so close."

Rock Opera finished 1 3-4 lengths in front of 17-1 Mananan McLir, who was a length in front of Inesperado, the 7-5 favorite in a field of eight.

Inesperado was ridden by Kent Desormeaux, a replacement for Corey Nakatani, who was shaken up in a spill in the fifth race.

Johar and Rock Opera are bound for the Hollywood Derby on Dec. 1. Johar has won 3 of 10 starts and $282,215 for the Thoroughbred Corp.