Updated on 09/16/2011 6:39AM

Popular best in San Miguel Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - After being passed in the final furlong, Popular rallied past Roman Dancer to win his first stakes in Sunday's $107,900 San Miguel Stakes* at Santa Anita.

Always near the front, Popular shook clear to lead by a length at the eighth pole. Roman Dancer, who was fourth early, launched a late rally and led briefly in the final sixteenth. Popular, racing on the inside, was a head behind Roman Dancer but rallied to win by a nose.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Popular ($9) finished six furlongs in 1:09 after setting fractions of 21.53 and 44.21 seconds.

"I had confidence he'd come back," Espinoza said. "He was always in front and he wanted to wait for the other horse."

Roman Dancer's loss left trainer Christopher Paasch stunned.

"I thought we had the race won at the eighth pole," Paasch said. "I'm pretty disappointed."

Roman Dancer finished four lengths in front of Royal Moro, who was followed by Bringem Jung and Distinction. Expected Program was scratched on Sunday morning.

The Grade 3 San Miguel, run for 3-year-olds, was Popular's second win. Owned by Thoroughbred Corp. and trained by Bob Baffert, Popular was second in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes in November but a disappointing seventh in an allowance race at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

"Last time, he was a bit wet in the post parade," Espinoza said. "This time, he was better. I'd knew he'd run good."

Royal Moro and Bringem Jung were making their first starts for new owners. Royal Moro was bought on Friday by Paul Reddam and is trained by Craig Dollase. Bringem Jung was bought over the weekend by Dwight Sutherland and was making his final start for Howard Zucker. The colt will be shipped to trainer Lynn Whiting at Oaklawn Park in coming days.

San Miguel Stakes*

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