ARCADIA, Calif. -- Southern Image took the Santa Anita Handicap yesterday, becoming the first horse to win two $1 million races in the same meeting at the track.
Understandably, trainer Mike Machowsky was thrilled.
"It's pretty special," he said after the victory added $600,000 to the horse's earnings, giving him $1.3 million this year.
Machowsky's mentor, Hall-of-Fame trainer Richard Mandella, didn't have such a good day. His big horse, Pleasantly Perfect, was scratched. His other entry, Olmodavor, finished fourth.
But he was delighted for his protege, hugging Machowsky after Southern Image beat the filly Island Fashion by 1 3/4 lengths in the $1 million event.
"At the eighth pole, I was just waiting for the wire, taking a few deep breaths," Machowsky said.
It's been quite a winter for Machowsky. Southern Image won the Malibu Stakes Dec. 26 -- the trainer's first Grade I victory -- and the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 24.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Southern Image covered 1 1/4 miles -- the longest distance of his brief career -- in 2:01.64. The winner paid $4, $3, and $2.40.
Espinoza had a big day, riding Imperialism to victory by a neck over favored Lion Heart in the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes, an important step on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
The victory in Santa Anita Handicap came in only the sixth career start for 4-year-old Southern Image. He had two long layoffs last year because of injury.
As a 3-year-old, Southern Image won the San Vicente Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race. But he never made it to the Derby or the other two Triple Crown events.
"We were on that path and hit the bump in the road," Machowsky said. "It's the hardest thing in the world to pull back."
Island Fashion paid $4.80 and $3.60. Saint Buddy was another 2 1/4 lengths back, returning $4.80.