02/23/2013 9:19PM

Santa Anita: Late bloomer Sahara Sky captures San Carlos

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Benoit & Associates
Sahara Sky, ridden by Joe Talamo, earns his second straight graded stakes win in the San Carlos.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Sahara Sky is making a fan of Hall of Fame Jerry Hollendorfer this year.

The 5-year-old Sahara Sky had a slow start to his career, winning 2 of his first 7 starts in California, and leaving Hollendorfer to question the long-term prospects. His point of view has changed rapidly this year.

Sahara Sky won his second consecutive graded stakes in Saturday’s $200,750 San Carlos Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

 “You can’t expect for them to be graded stakes winners all the time,” Hollendorfer said. “He sure is a nice horse.”

Ridden by Joe Talamo, Sahara Sky ($14.60) closed from sixth in a field of eight to win the Grade 2 San Carlos by three-quarters of a length over Capital Account.

Comma to the Top, who disputed the early pace, stayed on to finish third, followed by Drill, Justin Phillip, Midnight Transfer, The Lumber Guy, and Canonize. The Lumber Guy, second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November, was the 9-5 favorite.

Sahara Sky was timed in 1:21.28. Comma to the Top and Justin Phillip fought through a quick early pace of 22.11 and 43.88 seconds. With three furlongs remaining, Sahara Sky trailed the leaders by five lengths.

“I think Joe wanted to be a little closer,” Hollendorfer said. “He got a good trip. It was all about a perfect ride.”

The San Carlos win leaves Sahara Sky as California’s most accomplished sprinter this year. Sahara Sky won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes over six furlongs on Jan. 19, his first stakes win and first start since last June.

Co-owned by Hollendorfer and Kim Lloyd, general manager of Fairplex Park Racing, Sahara Sky earned $120,000 in the San Carlos. A 5-year-old horse by Pleasant Tap, Sahara Sky has won 6 of 14 starts and $356,680.

The Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on April 6 is Hollendorfer’s next target for Sahara Sky. The Potrero Grande field may include Amazombie, the champion sprinter of 2011.