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Norvsky closes strong for victory

SAN GABRIEL STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | GRADE 2 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/8 MILES

ARCADIA, Calif. -- Norvsky's affection for Santa Anita's turf course gave the veteran gelding his first graded stakes win in Monday's $150,000 San Gabriel Stakes, a victory that caught trainer Don Warren by surprise.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Norvsky ($8.20) closed from fifth in a field of six to win the Grade 2 San Gabriel by 1 1/2 lengths over 7-10 Jeranimo. The Usual Q. T., who harassed Jeranimo on the lead down the backstretch, finished third.

Warren said he considered scratching Norvsky in favor of a race for California-breds later this month, but stayed in the San Gabriel when the race drew a small field.

"I'm surprised as anyone," Warren said in the winner's circle. "I didn't think he could beat good horses like Jeranimo and The Usual Q. T. Usually, I have to bring out Acclamation to beat them."

Warren trains Acclamation, the multiple graded stakes winner who was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding turf male and older horse for 2011. The presentations were made Monday evening in nearby Beverly Hills, Calif.

Norvsky won for the third time in six career starts on Santa Anita turf in the San Gabriel.
Bejarano had Norvsky two lengths behind Jeranimo on the backstretch and brought the 6-year-old gelding into contention with a wide move on the turn. Norvsky trailed then-leader Jeranimo by two lengths with a furlong remaining, but finished well, running 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.03.

"From the half-mile pole, I knew he was ready, and he showed me a big kick," Bejarano said. "I thought he'd win the race."

Jeranimo, who won the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November, finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of The Usual Q. T. The San Gabriel was the first start for The Usual Q. T. sine a third in the Grade 2 American Handicap last May. A 6-year-old gelding, The Usual Q. T. is a multiple stakes winner.

Norvsky races for a partnership that includes breeders Bud and Judy Johnston and Robert Riggio. By Vronsky, Norvsky has won 6 of 18 starts and $487,844. Last year, he won two stakes, including the California Cup Classic over 1 1/8 miles on Santa Anita turf in October.