Courtesy of Santa Anita Park ARCADIA, CA (Oct. 15, 2023)—A winner of three out of his last four starts coming in, John Sadler’s talented 5-year-old gelding Kings River Knight rallied powerfully under Juan Hernandez to take Sunday’s $100,000 California Flag Handicap by 1 ½ lengths as he got about 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 1:10.75.
The California Flag is part of the lucrative CTBA-sponsored Golden State Series for eligible California-bred or sired horses.
As expected, highly accomplished stakes winner Brickyard Ride went to the front out of the gate, leading by a half length over Sadler’s other entrant, Lil Nass, to the dirt crossing at the top of the stretch. From there, heavily favored Kings River Knight loomed menacingly four-deep and wrested control from Brickyard Ride a furlong out.
“This horse is getting better every race,” said Hernandez. “Today, he broke really sharp but a couple of those other horses are faster early so I just let him see what was going on and let him breathe in the early part of the race. When we crossed the dirt, I picked him up and he responded back to me. Crossing the dirt was no problem and when we got back on the grass, he switched leads and opened up.”
Second, beaten a nose in his only other hillside try, the statebred Sensational Star Stakes five starts back on March 19, Kings River Knight was most recently a facile two length winner versus statebreds going one mile on dirt in the EB Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos Sept. 16.
Off as the 4-5 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds and up today, Kings River Knight paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10.
Owned by Integrity Thoroughbred Racing, LLC, The Ellwood Johnston Trust and Kenneth Tevelde, Kings River Knight, a 5-year-old gelding by Acclamation who was unraced until June of his 4-year-old year, bagged his fourth statebred stakes win and improved his overall mark to 13-7-5-0.
Bred in California by the Johnston family’s Old English Rancho, Kings River Knight is out of the Poteen mare Seasontoperfection. With the winner’s share of $60,000, he increased his earnings to $426,010.
“He’s been almost dominant in this division this year,” said Sadler. “A lovely horse. It brings wonderful memories. Buddy Johnston was my neighbor (here at Santa Anita) for 25 or 30 years, so it’s good to see those silks still going.”
Far back early, Johnny Podres rallied nicely for the place under Kyle Frey. Off at 20-1, he paid $9.20 and $4.60.
None Above the Law was last early, weaved his way through traffic the final furlong, but couldn’t go with Johnny Podres late, finishing third by 1 ¾ lengths over Brickyard Ride. The third choice in the tote at 5-1 with Joe Bravo up, None Above the Law paid $2.80 to show.
Fractions on the race were 20.97, 42.95 and 1:05.06.