11/01/2013 4:42PM

Santa Anita: Rookie Sensation wins Twilight Derby in stakes debut

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rookie Sensation chargesto victory in the Twilight Derby on the Friday Breeders' Cup undercard.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Rookie Sensation stepped into the big leagues and connected in his first at-bat, winning the Twilight Derby by about one length over Gabriel Charles in his stakes debut under a perfect ground-saving ride from Victor Espinoza.

A son of Unbridled Song–La Marcheta bred and owned by Frank Stronach, Rookie Sensation finished ninth sprinting in his career debut this past May, but quickly improved when stretched to two-turn trips, and was a close, closing second before scoring an eye-catching first-level allowance victory in his first two turf tries, both at Del Mar this summer.

The sharp grass victory came back on Aug. 31, and trainer John Shirreffs patiently awaited the proper next step, finely tuning Rookie Sensation through a series of workouts at Hollywood Park. The Twilight Derby, a 1 1/8-mile grass race, unfolded at a moderate clip, with Dry Summer leading the way through splits of 23.91, 47.76, and 1:11.28. Rookie Sensation, racing midpack and hugging the fence, always was traveling alertly for Espinoza, who turned him loose at the top of the stretch and split horses at the eighth pole on the way to victory.

Runner-up Gabriel Charles had a tougher journey, rallying very wide from near the back of the 13-horse field. He found his best stride about 1 1/2 furlongs from home and was clearly second best, with Gervinho edging pace-setting Dry Summer for third. Rookie Sensation ran the mile and one-eighth on very firm going in 1:46.64 and paid $18.20 to win.