2012-2013: Slim Shadey and the San Marcos
Long a staple of the Santa Anita season, the San Marcos Stakes has shown up on the resume of several great horses since the 1950s.
That first decade saw great horses like Hill Prince (1952) and Round Table (1959) win the event, while the amazing Cougar II (1971), Vigors (1978) and John Henry (1980) followed suit later on. With its lengthy history and connection to racing legends, the San Marcos has continued on well into the twenty-first century as a major race at Santa Anita.
But one aspect that made the San Marcos so unique (and still does) is that for its first sixty-one years, no horse could claim winning it more than once. In one way, it was not unlike the Santa Anita Handicap or San Juan Capistrano, for only a few horses can be called multiple winners of either race. But the fact that no horse had yet been even a two-time San Marcos winner was truly an amazing part of the race's story.
But one horse bucked the trend, and his name was Slim Shadey.
Bred in Great Britain, Slim Shadey spent the first two seasons of his career racing in Europe. Attaining limited success, the son of Val Royal had one win and a stakes placing to his name after making numerous starts. But even that type of record indicates class in a turf horse, especially in North America. And that was where Slim Shadey happened to land in 2012.
Now part of the Simon Callaghan barn, Slim Shadey finished ninth in his California debut on January 2 going a mile against allowance company. Wheeled back ten days later, Slim Shadey was tasked with a mile and one-quarter outing against allowance optional claiming foes. Traveling off the pace, Slim Shadey and jockey David Flores traveled along the inside part of the turf course before making a bid on the outside in the stretch. With a gutsy effort in the closing moments, Slim Shadey earned a surprise win at 13-1 odds.
He put on a nice performance, and that set him up for his first try at the Grade II San Marcos. It is entirely possible that Callaghan had the race in mind for Slim Shadey for a little while. The January 12 race was contested at the San Marcos distance of ten furlongs, so that certainly had the look of a prep for Slim Shadey. On February 11, the import found himself back in the starting gate with five rivals as he made his graded stakes debut.
Overlooked in the wagering in his two previous starts, Slim Shadey again found himself at boxcar odds. The betting public put their trust in Sanagas, making the reigning winner of the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup the 4-5 favorite.
Slim Shadey and Flores seized control at the start. Securing the inside path, they led the field down the stretch as the wind flowed through Slim Shadey's dark mane. The duo engineered a slow pace as they moved around the clubhouse turn and backstretch. No one challenged for the lead, waiting for the right moment later on.
Slim Shadey maintained his position into the far turn, running determinedly and confidently. The pace did not pick up; none of the fractions were below 24 seconds, and the mile had a clocking of 1:37.50. Sanagas ran second turning for home, but he would not be a factor for the win. As Slim Shadey continued to lead on the inside, Norvsky and Utopia began their bids for victory. Of those two, Utopia had more, and he made a charge for the front. But Slim Shadey had enough to hold him off thanks to the slow pace, taking the victory by a head.
In terms of just wins, Slim Shadey was already doing better than he had during the European phase of his career. Already gaining two wins in his last three starts, would he be able to do more competing on his home circuit?
The answer was that he could.
One year after his first San Marcos victory, Slim Shadey had placed in multiple graded races and walked away with the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship title. Overall, his record had been a mixed bag after the San Marcos, but he had more success than what he experienced in Europe. As for 2013, he started off the year with a sixth in the Grade II San Gabriel Stakes, but Callaghan brought Slim Shadey back to the San Marcos. After getting quicker fractions in the mile and one-eighth San Gabriel while racing in midpack for much of the way, Slim Shadey got to try ten furlongs once more. But unlike the 2012 San Marcos, which had a small field, Slim Shadey went into the 2013 renewal taking on eleven horses.
At far less odds this time around, Slim Shadey cleared the group early, again taking the lead early. With Gary Stevens in the saddle, the defending champion enjoyed a comfortable lead as he navigated the green oval and kept a slow tempo. A couple of horses got close to him leaving the backstretch and around the far turn, but none of them wrestled the lead from the dark bay gelding. They were still within striking distance for a couple of moments in the stretch, but Slim Shadey held tough. He began pulling away, another win only seconds away. Interaction, the post time favorite, mustered up a rally, but Slim Shadey was too powerful. He had enough in the waning seconds, and prevailed by a length to become the first two-time winner of the San Marcos.
He did it in style, too. After winning in 2012 with a time of 2:01.55, he completed this version in 1:59.17. He did not have a fast early pace like he had in the San Gabriel, and that was a difference maker.
With that latest performance, Slim Shadey scaled the top of the San Marcos mountain, doing what no other horse had done going back to 1952. For that reason, he has earned a permanent place in the California racing timeline, making history in front of thousands at Santa Anita on February 9, 2013.
Though his name contains the word "slim," the legacy of Slim Shadey in regards to the San Marcos is huge.
Simply put, he is the race's grand champion.