It’s no secret that horse racing is a sport that skews old, so it would come as no surprise that most of the 9,621 in attendance at Santa Anita on Saturday afternoon completely understood the background of a horse named for a television character who went off the air more than 55 years ago.
Eddie Haskell was named for the alternately obsequious and conniving teenager on the “Leave It to Beaver” television show that stopped production in 1963. He was unfailingly polite to adults and unbearably mischievous when around Beaver’s brother Wally.
There was nothing mischievous or surprising about his win Saturday in the Grade 3 $100,000 Daytona Stakes for older horses going five furlongs on the turf. Running comfortably off the lead, even letting What’sontheagenda take a three-length advantage on the far turn, jockey Kent Desormeaux powered Eddie Haskell through the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
It was the 6-year-old gelding’s first graded stakes win and fifth victory in nine starts since being claimed by trainer Mark Glatt for owners Jim Hailey and Phil Wood for $50,000.
The Daytona was originally scheduled to be run on the 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course. But since the death of Arms Runner on March 31, the signature Santa Anita course has been shut down for sprints.
“I think this horse can beat anybody going 5/8ths [of a mile],” Glatt said. “At this stage of his career, I don’t think I’d be afraid to run him against anybody. If he can stay healthy, who knows by the end of the year. He’s already beaten a Breeders’ Cup champion [Stormy Liberal] earlier in the meet.
“It’s fun to think about” entering Eddie Haskell in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint race “and I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better horse in a five-furlong grass race.”
He was one of only two Cal-breds in the seven-horse race and had a strong local backing. He paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. What’sontheagenda was second and Kanthaka was third.
“When I pushed the button he gave me whiplash, popped a wheelie and took off and went after the leader,” Desormeaux said. “I’m having fun riding fabulous horses like this one.”
The Daytona was one of three graded stakes on Saturday’s 10-race card. In what was likely considered the feature, the Grade 2 $200,000 Triple Bend for older horses going seven furlongs, Air Strike made a serious late rush, going from seventh to win by a head over Cistron.
“I told [jockey] Noberto [Arroyo Jr.] just to let them set the table for you and just come with that big wide run and just keep on ’em,” said winning trainer Phil D’Amato. “He followed instructions to a T with a great ride and got the job done.”
Arroyo was not the first choice for the horse.
“We were going to use [Flavien] Prat, but he had the call on Kanthaka,” D’Amato said. “And Joe [Talamo] had the call for Ron Ellis [The Hardest Way], so we were left looking for a jock. Norberto has been breezing a lot of horses for me and I thought he was the kind of rider who could fit this horse.”
Air Strike paid $27.40, $10.40 and $4.60. Cistron was second and Nero finished third.
In the remaining stakes, the Grade 2 $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes for horses going 1 1/4 miles on the turf, Markie’s Water entered the stretch in seventh and finished in first by three-quarters of a length over a blanket finish of United, Ashleyluvssugar, Prime Attraction and Morse Code.
“Wow,” said trainer Richard Baltas. “They were all lined up there and I was just hoping he was going to explode the last part. He kicked on like he was the best horse.”
Markie’s Water paid $6.80, $3.80 and $2.60.
“The last race he didn’t break very well for me,” said Markie’s Water jockey Tiago Pereira. “This time he broke well and he was really relaxed after we passed the finish line for the first time. We settled in behind horses and when it was time to go, we went outside and he really responded.”