04/11/2015 7:06PM

Masochistic hangs on to win Kona Gold

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Benoit Photo
Masochistic (left) wins the Kona Gold Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Masochistic’s 2014 campaign was somewhat shrouded in controversy. His 2015 season consists only of wins.

In Saturday’s $200,250 Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita, Masochistic ($3.80) ran arguably the best race of his career to win the Grade 2 sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs. The Kona Gold Stakes was Masochistic’s first start for trainer Ron Ellis, following a transfer from trainer A.C. Avila last month after Samantha Siegel acquired a 50 percent share in the 5-year-old gelding.

Avila owned 50 percent with Los Pollos Hermanos Racing but sold his share after accepting a 60-day suspension from Santa Anita stewards for a medication violation in 2014. The violation, an overage for the tranquilizer Acepromazine, was found in a post-race test taken from Masochistic after the gelding finished fifth in his career debut here in March 2014.

Masochistic has since won 5 of 6 starts. He won an optional claimer Feb. 28 in his 2015 debut and final start for Avila and was the 4-5 favorite in a solid field in the Kona Gold.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Masochistic disputed the pace through the first half-mile before taking the lead on the turn. Masochistic was tested to the wire, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of the 7-2 San Onofre, who set the pace.

“I thought he ran awesome,” Ellis said. “He hooked up with a tough horse on the turn. He’s a talented son of a gun.”

Baze rode Masochistic for the first time, replacing regular rider Victor Espinoza, who rode at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

“Tyler did a good job,” Ellis said. “We’re both kind of new to this.”

San Onofre set fractions of 22.33 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.64 for a half-mile and ran well through the stretch to hold second.

Sahara Sky, best known for winning the 2013 Metropolitan Mile Handicap at Belmont Park, closed from last of six to finish third in his first start since last June. Spirit Rules was fourth, followed by Ankeny Hill and Seeking the Sherif.

Masochistic was timed in 1:14.69. A California-bred by Sought After, Masochistic has won 5 of 7 starts and earned $343,850. In his only other stakes appearance, he was second in the Los Alamitos Mile last September, emerging from the race with a foot injury that kept him sidelined through the fall and early winter.