11/05/2011 7:59PM

Santa Anita: John Johny Jak wins duel in Lure Stakes

Benoit & Associates
John Johny Jak and Victor Espinoza edge Assessment in the Lure.

ARCADIA, Calif. – John Johny Jak won his second restricted stakes of the year in Saturday’s $70,150 Lure Stakes at Santa Anita, overcoming a stretch-long duel with pacesetter Assessment to prevail by a nose.

John Johny Jak ($5) closed from third to reach contention in early stretch and took the lead in the final strides. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, John Johny Jak ran a mile on turf in 1:35.44.

“I thought it would be easier, but the other horse is game,” Espinoza said.

The tight finish did not surprise winning trainer Kristin Mulhall.

“He tried to pull himself up,” she said. “He did that at Del Mar. He does what he needs to do.”

Assessment, ridden by Daniel Vergara, set a modest pace of 23.80 and 48.89 seconds and led by as much as a length on the backstretch. A 43-1 shot who placed in three stakes at Emerald Downs and Hastings Park earlier this year, Assessment finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Leroy’s Dynameaux in the field of nine.

John Johny Jak races for Kretz Racing and has won 8 of 23 starts and $284,799. A 4-year-old ridgling by Wildcat Heir, John Johny Jak joined Mulhall’s stable after a private purchase during the summer. Earlier this year, John Johny Jak won the restricted Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar by a nose in August and was third in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile here last month.

The Lure Stakes was restricted horses who had not won a first-place purse of $60,000 or more in a stakes at a mile or more this year.

John Johny Jak is likely to return in the $250,000 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26.