03/04/2012 4:39PM

Santa Anita: Big Cap's top two finishers considering $1M Charles Town Classic

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Benoit & Associates
Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek could return east for the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 14.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Ron the Greek won the first Grade 1 race of his career in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday, and he may be back in California this fall in search of another major win.

“There is a big one at the end, if he’s in good form,” trainer Bill Mott said.

That would be the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

Ron the Greek, 5, made his first start over 1 1/4 miles in the Big Cap, and handled the distance with no difficulty. Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Ron the Greek closed from 10th in a field of 13 to win by 3 1/2 lengths as the 7-2 third choice.

The victory was a milestone first Big Cap win for the people behind Ron the Greek – owners Nils Brous, Adam Wachtel, breeder Jack Hammer, Lezcano, and Mott.

“It’s nice to be able to add it to the resume,” Mott said of the Big Cap.

Mott said that a trip to the Middle East for the $10 million Dubai World Cup is not a consideration for Ron the Greek. He has Royal Delta, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs last year, as a Dubai World Cup candidate.

Races such as the $1 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia on April 14, the $300,000 Alysheba Stakes on May 4, or the $400,000 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16 at the Churchill Downs spring-summer meeting are possible for Ron the Greek.

 “I don’t think he needs to run in a lot of races.” Mott said.

Setsuko, the runner-up in the Big Cap for the second consecutive year, is doubtful for the Dubai World Cup, trainer Richard Mandella said.

“If he’d have won, I would have thought about Dubai,” Mandella said on Sunday. “I don’t think that’s the thing to do – today anyway.

“The race at Charles Town is interesting. It’s a lot of money. I’ll have that in mind.”

Mandella said the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup over 1 1/2 miles on the main track here on March 24 is another possibility.

Setsuko was fifth on the backstretch. He loomed near the front in early stretch, but could not keep pace with Ron the Greek late. The lone shipper in the field, Ron the Greek caught Mandella’s eye earlier in the week.

“I saw him on the track and he looked good,” he said. “I saw the writing on the wall.”

Ultimate Eagle, the 2-1 favorite, finished 10th, after contributing to a fast pace of 22.26 and 44.55 seconds through the first half-mile. By then, trainer Mike Pender has lost hope for a first career Big Cap win.

“He really ran sprinter-type fractions,” Pender said. “When they went flying past the wire the first time, I kind of threw my program in the air and called it a day.”

Owned by B.J. Wright, Ultimate Eagle won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes here last month for his third career stakes win. Pender had no plans for Ultimate Eagle’s next start, as of Sunday morning.

“We’ll follow his lead and figure out what he can do after a tough effort,” Pender said. “It was the toughest race of his life. It wasn’t to be.”

A top three finish was impossible for the 83-1 outsider Thirtyfirststreet, who had the worst trip in the field.  The 4-year-old was ridden by 18-year-old apprentice jockey Eswan Flores, who tried to sneak through along the rail in early stretch to the inside of Ultimate Eagle. There was not sufficient room, causing Thirtyfirststreet to strike the rail.

“He needed some stitches on his left stifle,” trainer Doug O’Neill said.