04/02/2017 7:59PM

Return to marathon helps Hard Aces snap skid in Tokyo City Cup

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Benoit & Associates
Hard Aces, under Santiago Gonzalez, defeats favored Big John B by a neck in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Grade 3 dirt marathons have become a steady source of success for Hard Aces.

Last July at Del Mar, Hard Aces won his first attempt at 1 1/2 miles on dirt in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap. Sunday at Santa Anita, Hard Aces was back at the same distance, and won the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup by a neck over 3-2 favorite Big John B.

Hard Aces ($10) was within a length of the lead with a quarter-mile remaining and fought past Hi Happy for a narrow win over a determined Big John B.

Ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, Hard Aces was timed in 2:31.99.

“He’s a grinder,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said. “He doesn’t quit.”

Gonzalez gave Hard Aces a patient ride in the field of six. The 7-year-old Hard Aces was four wide on the backstretch and three-wide on the turn while reaching contention in the stretch.

Big John B finished a nose in front of 2-1 Hi Happy, who was followed by Beach View, Infobedad, and Irish Surf.

Hard Aces was acquired privately by Pete and Kosta Hronis in early 2015 and transferred from Larry Jones to John Sadler. For his current owners and trainer, Hard Aces has won three stakes, including the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita at 1 1/4 miles in June 2015.

Hard Aces has run in 21 consecutive graded stakes since being acquired privately. He was second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in 2016, and second in the Grade 2 Las Vegas Marathon at 1 3/4 miles on dirt on the undercard of the first day of the Breeders’ Cup races here last November.

The win in the $100,345 Tokyo City Cup ended a six-race losing streak since the Cougar II Handicap. Hard Aces was sixth as a 22-1 outsider in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 11.

“He didn’t get the trip we wanted in the Big Cap,” Sadler said. “But he’s been a wonderful horse for us.”

Hard Aces has won 8 of 40 starts and earned $1,147,990. Hard Aces will be considered for the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational, a $400,000 race at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park on June 10.