Hronis Racing’s Hard Aces hadn’t won a race since July of 2016, but the 7-year-old by Hard Spun was bound and determined to change that on Sunday. Under a well-timed ride by Santiago Gonzalez, Hard Aces just got his head in front at the wire to nail a blanket finish in the G3 Tokyo City Cup. The John Sadler trainee covered 12 furlongs over Santa Anita’s fast main track in 2:31.99, besting 2016 Tokyo City Cup winner Big John B and Argentinian Hi Happy.
After clobbering Infobedad to his inside at the start, Hi Happy got straightened out and took charge heading into the homestretch for the first time. He was immediately joined on the inside by Beach View, and the two moved in unison through fractions of :25.93, :50.34, and 1:16.11. The were steadily tracked by Infobedad, three wide in third position, with Irish Surf very rank in fourth. It was several lengths back to Hard Aces, and Big John B trailed the field in the early going.
Nearing the end of the backstretch, Hard Aces and Big John B began to close the gap on the leaders, but Gonzalez’ decision to take Hard Aces three-wide around the far turn gave him clear running room with the hard-knocking older horse. Big John B got stuck behind Hi Happy and Beach View, full of run with nowhere to go until the head of the lane.
Hard Aces carried a bit wide turning for home, allowing Big John B to come up along the inside. Hi Happy went on gamely, and the three were head-and-head down the stretch with an sixteenth of a mile to run. Widest of all, Hard Aces got his head in front and refused to give it up until he reached the wire. Big John B, between horses, was just a whisker in front of Hi Happy in the photo finish. Beach View was just two lengths back in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Dreamchaser Thorobreds, Hard Aces has had a lengthy, star-studded career in which he has often faced off against the best the handicap division had to offer. Sadler discovered his penchant for a lengthier route of ground, and the horse has flourished when those marathon races are carded. Overall, Hard Aces boasts a record of 8-6-9 from 40 starts, with earnings of over $ 1.1 million.
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