ARCADIA, Calif. - Proudinsky ended a three-race losing streak with a successful defense of his title in the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita on Sunday.
Lava Man, the winner of 17 of 46 starts and $5,268,706, finished last in his first start since July 2008. Since then, he had undergone stem cell therapy to regenerate cartilage in an ankle.
Lava Man held the early lead in the Grade 2 San Gabriel, setting a slow pace of 24.06 and 48.14 seconds, while closely followed by Proudinsky. Jockey Rafael Bejarano guided Proudinsky to the lead entering the stretch and Proudinsky was fully extended to hold off a late run from Loup Breton, the 7-5 favorite who was making his stakes debut in the United States. Loup Breton was a group stakes winner in France in 2007 and 2008.
Proudinsky ($5.60) ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.91, winning by a neck.
"I knew (Loup Breton) was going to come running at the end, but I was real confident," trainer Humberto Ascanio said. "(Bejarano) had a lot of horse."
Acclamation finished third in the field of seven, losing by 1 1/4 lengths.
Proudinsky won the 2008 San Gabriel and followed with a victory in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds last March when trained by Bobby Frankel. Proudinsky made two starts during the spring, finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and third in the Monmouth Stakes before being given a break of more than five months.
Frankel died after a lengthy illness on Nov. 16, and Proudinsky started for Ascanio, Frankel's former assistant, when fourth in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27.
Sunday, Ascanio said that Proudinsky was too fresh in the Citation, but had trained in a more settled manner in recent weeks.
Owned by Johanna Louise Glen-Teven, Proudinsky has won 7 of 22 starts and $1,225,953. The San Gabriel was Proudinsky's fifth stakes win.
Cal Breeders: Evening Jewel takes it
Evening Jewel won her stakes debut in Sunday's $100,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, benefiting from an ideal trip under jockey Victor Espinoza.
Evening Jewel ($8.40) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.97. She stalked pacesetter Camille C to early stretch and held off a late run from 7-1 Warren's Jitterbug to win by three-quarters of a length. West Ruler, the 5-2 favorite, finished third in the field of six.
Evening Jewel has won 2 of 5 starts and $100,600. She needed three races to beat maidens and then finished second to Caracortado in an allowance race against males at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6. Caracortado returned to win the open division of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Saturday.