Sahara Sky defends title in 'Carlos


Making only his second start since a thrilling, last-jump victory in the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day, Sahara Sky rallied from near the back in the final quarter-mile to capture the Grade 2, $251,250 San Carlos at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Under Joel Rosario, Sahara Sky saved ground from post 1 while racing within five lengths of the pace. Remaining near the back of the 10-horse field to the stretch, Sahara Sky came out in the lane, found room between rivals late and surged to best 9-1 shot Big Macher by a half-length in a time of 1:20 ⅘ for seven furlongs on a fast track. He paid $8.80 as the 3-1 second choice.

"It was a really good ride," Rosario said. "He was in a little bit of trouble turning for home. I had to try and find some room and as soon as someone gave me enough room I tried to find my way through, and when I asked him he was good. He was good after all that."

Sahara Sky's victory was the first title defense in the San Carlos since Rising Market won in 1969-70. Autocrat (1948-49) and Porterhouse (1955-56) also won in consecutive years, while Native Diver (1965, 1967) and Surf Cat (2006, 2008) are the only other multiple winners of the race.

Big Macher, who traded leads with Cyclometer through splits of :22 3/5 and :44 ⅗, held second by a head over 38-1 chance Clubhouse Ride, who had a nose on Wild Dude. Shakin It Up, the 7-5 favorite, finished fifth and was followed by Midnight Transfer, Let's Get Crackin, Ready for More, Cyclometer, and Zeewat.

Sahara Sky burst on the scene in early 2013, registering a 21-1 upset of the Palos Verdes and a milder 6-1 score in the San Carlos. Following a narrow second-place finish in the Carter Handicap, he earned his Grade 1 laurels with a score in the Metropolitan, which proved to be his final start of the season due to infirmities.

Returning to action in the 2014 edition of the Palos Verdes on February 2, Sahara Sky trailed throughout in the field of five, but lost by only 3 ½ lengths to Wild Dude. His record now stands at 18-8-3-4, $1,040,680.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns the six-year-old with Kim Lloyd's Sweetwater Stable, said that a title defense in the Met Mile, scheduled for June 7 this year, is on the agenda for the son of Pleasant Tap.

Bred in Florida by Martin Stables, Sahara Sky was produced by the Grade 3-winning Seeking the Sky, a daughter of Storm Cat and the Grade 2-winning Seeking Regina. This extended family includes Grade 1 winner Bachelor Beau, Grade 2 winner Just Jenda and Grade 3 victor All Squared Away.