Updated on 09/17/2011 8:46PM

Rock Hard Ten captures Strub

Rock Hard Ten wins Saturday's $300,000 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Even when several things went against him, Rock Hard Ten proved why he is the best 4-year-old in California in Saturday's $300,000 at Santa Anita.

A nose victory over Imperialism did not unfold the way jockey Gary Stevens had expected, but the result marked Rock Hard Ten's third major stakes win in his nine-race career.

Stevens moved Rock Hard Ten into contention earlier than he wanted at the end of the backstretch to avoid being stuck behind fading rivals on the final turn. Then, the colt made the lead earlier than Stevens would have hoped, leaving him fully extended to hold off a determined rally from Imperialism.

The result was a thrilling stretch run between Rock Hard Ten and Imperialism, with Rock Hard Ten finishing 1 1-8 miles in 1:49.24.

Stevens was critical of his ride, but expressed relief that Rock Hard Ten had won. He wanted to reach contention leaving the final turn and hit the front much later in the stretch.

"I like the horse having a target into the stretch and towing me up there," Stevens said. "It didn't happen. His run was three-sixteenths of a mile longer than I would have liked for it to have been."

In mid-stretch, the Strub appeared to be Imperialism's race to win. He had rallied from last in the field of nine 4-year-olds to reach fourth, only 1 1-2 lengths behind Rock Hard Ten, and was closing well. Imperialism drew even with Rock Hard Ten but could not get by.

"I saw Imperialism had momentum," said winning trainer Richard Mandella. "I was hoping that Gary could get (Rock Hard Ten) concentrated enough to hold him off and he did."

Imperialism finished 3 1-2 lengths in front of early pacesetter Love of Money, who was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last October.

The Grade 2 Strub marked Rock Hard Ten's second stakes win of the meeting. The winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26, Rock Hard Ten has earned $970,380 in his career for owners Ernie Moody and Madeleine Paulson.