Stilleto Boy finished a neck ahead of Proxy to win Saturday’s 86th running of the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap, his first victory in a Grade 1 race on his ninth try.

Stilleto Boy broke sharply from the No. 4 post and was a close fourth at the rail in the run to the far turn. Stilleto Boy was third entering the stretch, about two lengths behind favorite Defunded and a half-length behind Hopper, took the lead and held off a late charge from Proxy for the victory.

“I just wanted to let him run out front, but they shut me off and we had to settle back,” Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux said after his third victory in Santa Anita’s signature race for older horses. He also won on Best Pal in 1992 and Milwaukee Brew in 2002.

“He wasn’t enjoying himself getting hit by dirt, so we moved out and he kept going. At the three and a half, I asked him for his best, but there was nowhere to go. Then at the two and a half, I asked him again and he made the drive. I was yelling at him and pushing him and he gave me everything. I didn’t know until two jumps prior to the wire that we were going to get there.”

Stilleto Boy, the 13-1 sixth choice in the field of nine older horses after being the 5-1 fourth choice on the morning line, paid $29.80, $11 and $4.40. Proxy, the 3-1 second choice who rallied wide from far back to place, a half-length ahead of Defunded, paid $4.60 and $2.60. Defunded, the 6-5 favorite, paid $2.40 to show. Hopper finished fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Defunded.

The $300,000 for the victory increased the 5-year-old gelding’s career earnings to $1,711,675 in 21 starts, including four victories, four second-place finishes and eight third-place finishes.

Stilleto Boy was coming off a third-place finish in his last race, the $3 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, finishing a head behind Defunded, who finished second, one length behind Art Collector.

“Defunded barely beat us that day, so I knew we could beat him because we had beaten him before,” Stilleto Boy’s trainer Ed Moger Jr.

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