02/02/2013 7:56PM

Santa Anita: Guilt Trip's win in Strub completes big day for Baffert, Gary and Mary West

Benoit & Associates
Guilt Trip provides jockey Joe Talamo with his first of back-to-back stakes wins on Saturday's card in the Strub for 4-year-olds.

ARCADIA, Calif. – For years, around the time California mandated synthetic tracks, owners Gary and Mary West decided to race their horses exclusively on the East Coast, despite having a home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. They have since moved several of their horses to California, and on Saturday, they had their best day yet at Santa Anita since their homecoming.

Flashback won the Robert Lewis early in the afternoon, and then the Wests and trainer Bob Baffert put a bookend on the day when the improving Guilt Trip rallied to take the Grade 2, $200,250 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds.

Guilt Trip ($6.40) was fourth in the six-horse field during the early portions of the 1 1/8-mile race, but surged to the front passing the eighth pole under Joe Talamo and then safely held off the late charge of Stephanoatsee to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Stephanoatsee, in his first start since November, got up for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Fed Biz.

Handsome Mike was fourth and was followed, in order, by Tritap and Groovin’ Solo.

Guilt Trip completed the distance  on the fast main track in 1:48.97. The win was his third in seven starts, and his first in a stakes race. Earlier this meet, after he was shipped west and Baffert took over as his trainer from Chad Brown, Guilt Trip was fifth in the seven-furlong Malibu and a late-running third in the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando.

“Chad, to his credit, thought this was his best 2-year-old, but he had nagging injuries and couldn’t show his full potential,” Gary West said. “Since he’s come here, he’s run to the potential that Chad thought he had.”

The Wests have 16 horses in California, a dozen with Baffert, and four with Ron Ellis.

“We’ve had much more luck than we ever expected,” said West, whose Book Review won the Grade 1 La Brea for fillies on opening day Dec. 26. “We’ve lived out here and long time and decided to make a commitment to California. It’s nice to be able to drive an hour and half here, or 15 minutes to Del Mar, to see them run.”

Baffert said Guilt Trip has improved since going two turns.

“It’s really important for him. He’s able to sit and wait,” Baffert said.

Baffert said he would look at the Santa Anita Handicap in four weeks as a possible next start for Guilt Trip. Baffert also has the ante-post favorite for that race in Game On Dude, who is scheduled to run on Sunday in the San Antonio.