02/26/2012 7:54PM

Santa Anita: Apprentice Flores gets first stakes win in Baffle


ARCADIA, Calif. - Tones prevailed in a tight photo finish in Sunday’s $81,140 Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita, giving 18-year-old apprentice jockey Eswan Flores his first career stakes win.

Tones stalked pacesetter Coach Bob on the hillside portion of the turf course, took the lead when the field reached the main oval and held off a late threat from Stoney Fleece to win by a neck. Tones ($29.60) ran about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.47.

Passing Game, a 21-1 outsider, finished third in the field of eight 3-year-olds. Hodge was scratched after breaking through the starting gate and running loose for approximately a quarter-mile down the hillside course.

Flores, riding Tones for the first time, said that the finish line arrived just in time for his mount. The young rider said he knew in deep stretch that Stoney Fleece was closing well.

“I was [thinking], 'Come on wire,' ” he said. “My horse was very comfortable. I thought I had him in a good spot. He really responded to the whip.

The current Santa Anita winter-spring meeting has been a milestone season for Flores, who began riding Thoroughbreds last July. He is currently third in the standings behind Joel Rosario and Rafael Bejarano.

Tones races for a partnership and is trained by Doug O’Neill. An Irish-bred colt by Strategic Prince, Tones has won 3 of 8 starts and $65,968. In England last year, Tones won twice, in minor races at Epsom and Wonverhampton.

The Baffle Stakes was Tones’s second start in the United States, preceded by a fourth behind Kentucky Derby hopeful Fed Biz in an optional claimer on the main track on Feb. 9.