Stilleto Boy wins Santa Anita Handicap, beats Proxy, Defunded

ARCADIA — There were no Flightlines in Saturday’s $500,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. Knicks Go and Life Is Good have been retired to the breeding shed. Medina Spirit tragically died in 2021.

With none of his past tormentors around, Stilleto Boy fought his way to a victory in Santa Anita’s signature race of the meet under veteran Kent Desormeaux. The 5-year-old son of Shackleford collared the leaders in the final stages to give Desormeaux a racing first — three Big ‘Cap victories in three decades.

The 53-year-old jockey, hindered by alcohol problems for much of his career, won the Big ‘Cap with Best Pal in 1992, Milwaukee Brew in 2002 and now Stilleto Boy, purchased by winning trainer Ed Moger’s brother, Steve, for $420,000 as a 3-year-old after winning the Iowa Derby.

Sitting fourth along the rail much of the way up the backstretch, Desormeaux steered Stilleto Boy to the outside turning for home and used a late closing kick for the horse’s fourth victory in 21 starts to pick up the $300,000 winner’s check and improve his career bankroll to $1.7 million.

Stilleto Boy, 5-1 on the morning line, got away as a 13-1 longshot despite having faced some of the toughest horses in training during his career. Proxy, one of two out-of-state shippers in the nine-horse field, finished second, a neck behind the winner. Defunded, the 6-5 favorite, was third.

The final time for the mile and a quarter was 2:01.96.

“I’ve been telling everyone that he is the best horse in racing,” Moger said. “I really think he is the best horse. The race in the Pegasus (third behind Art Collector and Defunded) was a really strong race and we had him go out of the 11 hole that day. Defunded barely beat us that day so I knew we could beat him because we had beaten him before. I thought he was the horse to beat. I thought (Stilleto Boy) could win. He’s been training great.

“Once they hit the wire, I thought we had it. I thought he was going to run second and all of a sudden everything changed and he won. I love the horse. It’s a great race to win in California. It’s been a famous race for a long time and it feels great to win it. There was no Flightline today, no Knicks Go or Life Is Good. So here we are. It was a perfect ride.”

It was Stilleto Boy’s first Grade I victory in nine tries. He won last year’s Grade II Californian Stakes at Santa Anita after finishing third behind Life Is Good and Knicks Go in the Pegasus at Gulfstream.

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“I just wanted to let him run out front, but they shut me off and we had to settle back,” Desormeaux said. “Everything else, I followed Ed Moger’s instructions. He wasn’t enjoying himself getting hit by dirt, so we moved out and he kept going. At the three and a half, I asked him for his best, but there was nowhere to go. Then at the two and a half, I asked him again and he made the drive. I was yelling at him and pushing him and he gave me everything. I didn’t know until two jumps prior to the wire that we were going to get there.”

As for his career problems, Desormeaux knows the future is up to him.

“I’ve come full circle,” he said. “I just have to stay clean. It’s up to me.”

He was appreciative of the confidence the Moger brothers showed in him.

“It took a lot of bravado for the owner and trainer to let me ride the horse again,” Desormeaux said. “This horse, I’ve always known him as a good horse, a great horse. I willed him to win today.”

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