In a finish typical of West Coast 3-year-old racing this season, Wednesday's $64,450 Bradbury Stakes at Santa Anita was won by a gelding not nominated to the Kentucky Derby, and the two favorites wound up at the back of a six-horse field.
Cosmotron, who ran for $40,000 and 45,000 claiming prices the first three times he started, was a four-length winner for trainer Vivian Pulliam and her husband, Norman, who owns the horse. Bolder Than Bold, who had been competitive in losing to several horses that returned to win stakes, ran fifth as the favorite, and Fleet Majesty, the second choice after a five-length maiden win two weeks ago, finished last.
Vivian Pulliam said that Cosmotron will run next in the Santa Anita Derby April 6. The chestnut son of Prove Out was nominated to that stake, but the Pulliams didn't pay the $200 it costs to nominate for the Kentucky Derby, which doesn't permit supplementary starters. "We didn't know what we had," she said.
Maybe it's just as well that Cosmotron can't go to Kentucky. Bluegrass breeders get nervous when a gelding runs in their showcase race, and a horse who came out of a yearling sale at Griffith Park would make them even more edgy.
"We toyed with running this horse in the San Felipe Handicap (last Sunday), but he threw in a bad race last time, and we figured the few extra days would help him," Vivian Pulliam said. "I'd like to think we'd have a chance against the horses that ran Sunday. He won with authority today, and the Santa Anita Derby's the same distance as this race."
Cosmotron, bought for about $47,000, more than doubled his earnings with a $37,450 purse in the Bradbury. Timed in 1:49 3/5, two seconds slower than the stakes record, he paid $9.80, $5 and $3.80. Protect Yourself paid $6.20 and $4.80 for finishing second and Reckoner, who lost a photo for place, returned $4.80.
Gary Stevens, riding Fleet Majesty, seemed to have more of an excuse than Bill Shoemaker aboard Bolder Than Bold. Shoemaker said he got pinched between horses at the start and the slow pace handicapped Bolder Than Bold's one-run style.
"My horse must have locked a stifle leaving the gate," Stevens said of Fleet Majesty. "It seemed to pop back in and he made the lead, but he wasn't running as easy as he can. The pace was slow enough that he should have been coasting."
Chris McCarron, winning a season-high 11th stakes race, took the mount on Cosmotron when Stevens stuck with Fleet Majesty.
"I was told to lay second to Fleet Majesty," McCarron said. "When he quit early, I got the lead and sat there as long as I could before making the run for home. He showed good acceleration and I definitely think he fits with the horses that ran in the San Felipe."
Although the Bradbury is a restricted stake for horses that have not won a race worth $17,000 or more, it has produced several horses that returned to run well in the Santa Anita Derby. Avatar won the Bradbury and the Santa Anita Derby in 1975; Mighty Adversary, second in the Bradbury last year, also won the Santa Anita Derby.
Vivian Pulliam became the first woman trainer at Santa Anita to win stakes with more than one horse. Avigaition, soon to be bred to Lyphard in Kentucky, won four stakes at the track before her retirement last year.
The Pulliams have another 3-year-old, Painted Canyon, who's won this season.
He's scheduled to start in the Charles Whittingham Stakes on March 29.
Like Cosmotron, Painted Canyon is also a gelding, but the good ol' boys in the bluegrass can rest easy. Painted Canyon's not nominated to the Kentucky Derby, either.