Fresh off his finest year, with purses of more than $4.2 million, Gary Jones began 1992 on a winning note.
The trainer couldn't have asked Wednesday's $109,300 San Gabriel Handicap to set up any better than it did for his Classic Fame.
Helped by a fast early pace, the 3-1 second choice surged ahead when asked by Eddie Delahoussaye and won the first stakes of the new year by nearly three lengths over Super May and four others. After attracting 18 entrants Sunday morning, the San Gabriel was reduced to six starters after seven scratches Tuesday and five more Wednesday.
This was the second victory in four starts for Classic Fame since he returned after an injury layoff of more than a year. The 6-year-old son of Nijinsky II suffered a broken left leg when finishing fourth in the 1990 Arlington Million.
"This is the best he's been since he won the American Handicap (in July of 1990 at Hollywood Park)," Jones said after Classic Fame completed the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46 3/5 over a course labeled good.
"It couldn't have set up more perfect if we had mapped it out. He's at his best when he comes from behind, but this jockey will give you heart failure.
"We might try him on the dirt, but not here. He's trained on the main track at Hollywood Park."
Delahoussaye, who has ridden Classic Fame in all four of his American victories, was about nine lengths back after a 45 3/5 half-mile and seven back after a 1:09 3/5 six furlongs.
"I didn't do anything but hold on," Delahoussaye said. "When they set a pace like that, I knew they were going to come back. They were rolling. I said, 'All I have to do is hope my horse kicks in,' and he did. I think he's getting better. Hopefully, he'll stay healthy and we'll have some more fun."
Super May, forced to squeeze inside pacesetter Defensive Play, finally got past to finish second by a nose. Fly Till Dawn, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth, another half-length back. Diable Au Corps was fifth and Qathif, who was hard to handle early, was last, beaten by more than 22 lengths.
Able to get away with a leisurely pace in his comeback victory in the second division of the Citation Handicap, Fly Till Dawn never led Wednesday.
The race before the San Gabriel, Luna Elegante upset heavily favored Sacramentada to win the $61,900 Run For The Roses.
Well-positioned by Pat Valenzuela, the 6-year-old Ahmad mare won by a neck in 1:34 4/5 for the mile. Luna Elegante had lost to Sacramentada by 3 1/2 lengths in an overnight handicap Dec. 7 at Hollywood Park.
Flawlessly, the impressive winner of the Matriarch and a loser only once on the turf, and Yellow Ribbon winner Kostroma might compete again in Sunday's $125,000-added San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Neither will start if there is more rain and the race is taken off the grass.
The 123-pound high weight in the San Gorgonio, Flawlessly's only defeat on turf came when she was second to Kostroma in the Yellow Ribbon. She turned the tables in the Matriarch and Kostroma struggled home sixth as the favorite.
There were initial fears Kostroma, who also won the Las Palmas in world-record time over this course, might have been injured in the Matriarch, but she came back fine.
"She's ready to go," Jones said. "She worked (five furlongs in 59 2/5)) this morning. I don't think she liked that course at Hollywood. She was changing leads all the way around. Usually, that's a sign the horse is sore or doesn't like the track, and she's been working fine since then."
Charlie Whittingham, who saw Flawlessy work five furlongs in 59 1/5 Wednesday morning, might also be represented by Colour Chart, who was fifth in the Matriarch after finishing sixth in the Yellow Ribbon.
Itsallgreektome, who was second in the Hollywood Turf Cup in his final start of 1991, is scheduled to make his 5-year-old debut in the $200,000 Hialeah Turf Cup on Sunday.
Trainer Wally Dollase's gelding is scheduled to arrive in Florida on Friday morning. A field of 12 is expected for the 1 1/2-mile Turf Cup; Itsallgreektome will carry high weight of 124 pounds, two pounds less than what he carried when beaten by Miss Alleged for the second consecutive time last month.
Horse Racing Notes
Santa Anita and its intertrack satellites set a mutuel handle record for New Year's Day when $8,662,622 was wagered Wednesday. The attendance total was 52,086, the highest for a New Year's Day since 1947. . . . There was one winning ticket in the Pick Six and it returned $514,260.40. It was purchased at Santa Anita, but wasn't immediately cashed. . . . Gary Stevens did not ride again Wednesday. He had complained of a cold Tuesday. . . . Eddie Delahoussaye and Kent Desormeaux each had two victories.