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A Unique Day of Racing

Times Staff Writer

The Crystal Water Handicap and Road To Slew go together like beer and pretzels. When the 8-year-old gelding prevailed in the $100,000 race for California-breds on Sunday at Santa Anita, he became only the second horse in the history of the track to win the same stake three times.

The only other horse to win a Santa Anita stake three times had been Del Mar Dennis, who bagged the San Bernardino Handicap for trainer Paco Gonzalez from 1994 to 1996.

Del Mar Dennis won the San Bernardino under different jockeys -- Sal Gonzalez Jr., the late Chris Antley and Kent Desormeaux -- and likewise no rider has won the Crystal Water more than once with Road To Slew. David Flores rode him Sunday, as he beat Mr. Joe C by a half-length, after he won the stake with Victor Espinoza in 2000 and Laffit Pincay in 2001. Road To Slew didn’t run in the Crystal Water last year; in fact, he made only one start in 2002. His only starts since his second Crystal Water victory were a fourth in a $100,000 claiming race in April of last year and a third on March 13 while running for a $62,500 tag.

For his career, Road To Slew, who was bred and is owned by Nick Cafarchia, has eight wins, six seconds and five thirds in 25 starts, with purses of $875,360.

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A series of minor physical problems have prevented Road To Slew from running more. After winning his first Crystal Water for trainer Oscar Garcia, he has won the last two out of Craig Dollase’s barn.

“He needed a comeback race,” said Dollase, explaining why he ran Road To Slew at $62,500 last time. "[Another race] didn’t come up, so we put him in there, and it worked out well. I had pointed to [the Crystal Water] all along. This horse is a gem of consistency. He’s had his injuries, but we’ve been patient with him and he looked good today.”

The favorite in the eight-horse field, Road To Slew, paid $6 for $2 and ran one mile on a firm turf course in 1:34 1/5. His other Crystal Water times were 1:35 1/5 and 1:33 4/5, the record for the stake first run in 1998.

Hugh Hefner, who won the Crystal Water while Road To Slew was resting last year, finished fifth Sunday after leading at the top of the stretch.

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“I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to ride him,” Flores said of Road To Slew. “I remember watching him when Laffit rode him in this race, and thinking to myself, ‘Two top athletes working together.’ ”

Pincay, who won four races with Road To Slew in 2000-01, has been sidelined, and his career has been in question, since he suffered a neck injury in a spill on March 1.

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In a finish in which the winner lost the lead and recovered, Buffythecenterfold beat Watching You by a nose in the $79,425 Santa Paula Stakes. Mel Stute trains Buffythecenterfold and his older brother, Warren, trains Watching You.... Candid Glen, the biggest price in the field, paid $170.20 after beating favored Rouvres by a neck in the $650,000 Explosive Bid Handicap at the Fair Grounds.... Iggy Puglisi rode three winners at Santa Anita, including Asong For Billy in the $70,150 March Madness Starter Handicap.... Between races, Gary Stevens, who plays George Woolf in the upcoming movie “Seabiscuit,” made a presentation to Edgar Prado, winner of George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. Stevens won the award in 1996. The New York-based Prado, 35, has won 4,747 races, including this year’s Santa Anita Handicap with Milwaukee Brew.

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