ARCADIA, Calif. -- If any horse on this circuit was due for some luck, it was Roy H, whose chance at winning the Bing Crosby at Del Mar in late July was severely compromised by the riderless Drefong.
On Saturday, in his first start since, Roy H had an ideal trip to win the $300,345 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, getting the Grade 1 victory he was denied in the Bing Crosby and putting him automatically in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, where he'll get a rematch with Drefong at Del Mar. The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is a "Win and You're In" toward the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 4. Drefong won the BC Sprint last year, at Santa Anita.
Roy H ($3.80), the favorite, was tested all the way through the lane by a stubborn Mr. Hinx before prevailing by one length under Kent Desormeaux, who was winning his third race out of the first six on the card. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to American Anthem in third, then came Ransom the Moon -- the Bing Crosby winner -- Giant Expectations, and Edwards Going Left in the field of six.
On a blisteringly hot day in which temperatures reached the mid-90s, Roy H completed six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:08.68.
"I pray he's like this in a month," Desormeaux said.
No one, though, may be champing at the bit more than Peter Miller, Roy H's trainer, when it comes to this year's Breeders' Cup. Miller and his family live just 10 minutes from Del Mar in Encinitas, Calif., and Roy H gives Miller a legitimate shot at his first Breeders' Cup win.
"I couldn't be more excited," Miller said in the Santa Anita winner's circle. "It's in my backyard. It would be very special to get my first Breeders' Cup win at Del Mar."
Miller said he thought Roy H "was the best horse in the Bing Crosby," in which Ransom the Moon beat him by 1 1/2 lengths.
"Anything can happen in a horse race, and usually does," Miller said. "A lot of redemption today."
Roy H, 5, is a gelding by More Than Ready who has now won five times in 16 starts. He is 4 for 5 this year, though, with the Bing Crosby being his only loss. He won the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park the day before this year's Belmont Stakes.
Roy H was gelded in the summer of 2016, after he had raced 10 times. He is 4 for 6 since.
"As a colt he didn't put it together," Miller said. Now, "He's blossomed. He's all business," Miller said.
Miller said assistant Ruben Alvarado, who oversees Miller's string at Santa Anita, has been instrumental in the development of Roy H. He said Roy H will remain at Santa Anita until the Del Mar barn area opens in two weeks, and then Roy H will head to Del Mar.
Gary Hartunian's Rockingham Ranch owns Roy H in partnership with Dave Bernsen. Roy H earned $180,000 on Saturday to bring his career total to $534,765.