ARCADIA, Calif. -- Denman's Call was eligible to a first-level allowance, and that's where his connections wanted to run him, but when the race to which they were pointing failed to fill, they decided to roll the dice and throw him in against Masochistic, Kobe's Back, and other accomplished older sprinters in the Grade 1, $400,690 Triple Bend Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.
They hit the jackpot, as Denman's Call, under a clever, rail-skimming ride from Tyler Baze, collared Masochistic in the final furlong and prevailed by a length, scoring a 16-1 surprise.
"Thankfully the race didn't go," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Denman's Call for a partnership. "He was sitting on a good race, but you never know where the class is. When they come to the paddock, it's like turning them out in the field in that you can tell in a few seconds the pecking order. He got in there like he was the leader, so I felt like he would run like he was training, but we never imagined this."
Denman's Call ($35.20) was making his third start following an eight-month layoff. He had been third in a pair of first-level allowance races in January and February, which extended his losing streak to six following a debut win against maidens in January 2016.
Denman's Call was third in the early going as Masochistic, favored at 1-2 in his first start since being disqualified for a medication violation in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, set the pace of 22.94 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.22 seconds for a half, with Conquest Cobra in closest pursuit. Masochistic pulled away from Conquest Cobra entering the lane, but Denman's Call rallied with courage up the inside to nail Masochistic in 1:20.94 for seven furlongs on the fast main track.
"He got tired. Saying that, I didn't have to let that son of a gun up the rail," said Mike Smith, who rode Masochistic, who wore front leg wraps for the first time.. "Tyler rode a great race. He was in my blind spot."
Conquest Cobra was third, another 4 1/4 lengths back, then came, in order, Silent Bird, Kobe's Back, Point Piper, and Nowalking, who was pulled up and removed from the track in the horse ambulance.
Denman's Call, 4, is a gelding by Northern Afleet. He had earned $98,640 in his first seven starts combined. First prize in the Triple Bend was $240,000.
Denman's Call is owned by Milt Gilman's Gilman Racing, Mark Verge's Westside Rentals, and the W C Racing Inc. of Josh Kaplan and Glenn Sorgenstein.