Kentucky-bred Express Train registered the first Grade 1 win of his career after fighting off midwestern shipper Warrant in a thrilling stretch duel to prevail in the $650,000 Santa Anita H. (G1) on Saturday, March 5. With the win, Express Train became racing’s newest millionaire.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Express Train attended the pace early from fourth in the 1 ¼-mile event. He forged to the front turning for home in company with Warrant and battled with that rival the length of the lane, ultimately getting his head in the front at the wire. Express Train stopped the clock in 2:03.22 for owner Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable and trainer John Shirreffs.
“I thought it was an exciting race,” said Espinoza. “He is a powerful horse, and he needs to find a rhythm. It doesn’t matter how wide I go on the turns as long as he is comfortable enough to stretch his legs and do his thing.”
Fresh off a romping 3 ¼-length win in the San Pasqual S. (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 5, Express Train is now a five-time Graded stakes winner. The $390,000 winner’s share of the Big ‘Cap purse increased his bankroll to $1,325,800 and improved his overall record to 17-7-4-3. Bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms, Express Train is by Union Rags out of the Mineshaft mare I’m a Flake.
The win provided Shirreffs with his first-ever Big ‘Cap win.
“It feels great,” said Shirreffs, 76, of the milestone win. “You dream about winning the Santa Anita Handicap, and to actually have it happen and with a horse like Express Train, who has done everything (right) along the way…He participated in all the big races on the West Coast, and he’s been there and shown up. To have him win the Santa Anita Handicap, it’s just thrilling.”