ARCADIA, Calif. -- Regardless of whether time is measured in decades or years, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has been waiting for a horse like Misremembered and a race such as Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap for a long time.
Baffert bred Misremembered, who is owned by his wife, Jill, and good friend George Jacobs. On Saturday, Misremembered gave the star trainer his biggest win as a breeder in the Big Cap, the second time he has won Santa Anita's signature race for older horses.
"I've been breeding these things for 20 years and I'm never had anything close to this," he said in the winner's circle.
Misremembered won his third stakes in the Big Cap, and by far the most lucrative race of the 4-year-old ridgling's career, which includes five wins in 11 starts and earnings of $1,188,589. He finally displayed the big race result that Baffert and his team had expected.
Misremembered ($10.80) ran 1¼ miles on the main track in 2:00.20, winning by a half-length over Neko Bay.
Baffert credited jockey Martin Garcia for a patient ride aboard Misremembered, who was always near the front. Misremembered stalked pacesetter Mast Track through an honest pace of 23.67 and 47.06 seconds before taking the lead after a mile in 1:35.67. Misremembered was a length clear of Dakota Phone at the eighth pole; the Big Cap was Misrembered's first win over 1¼ miles.
"He's been riding with a lot of confidence," Baffert said of Garcia. "To win this race, it's a huge race."
Neko Bay, who won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in his last start in January, closed from 10 in a field of 14 in the final quarter-mile to just miss. Jockey Mike Smith brought Neko Bay along the rail in the final furlong and thought for a moment he would win.
"When I got loose, I thought I had it," Smith said. "I've got to take my hat off to Misremembered. When I got to his hip, he dug in. He did enough to hold me off and that's what counts."
Dakota Phone, a 23-1 outsider, finished third, 2¼ lengths behind Neko Bay.
"I thought he ran good, but just got outrun by the other two," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.
St Trinians, the 3-1 favorite and the only female in the field, finished sixth. She was ninth on the backstretch and moved closer on the turn, but could not make up any ground on Misremembered through the stretch, losing by 6¾ lengths.
"If it was the distance or the competition, whatever you call it, she just got outrun," trainer Mike Mitchell said.
Misremembered ended a three-race string of second-place finishes in major stakes with the win in the Big Cap. After winning the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park in October 2009, Misremembered was second in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November, the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes here on Dec. 27, and the Grade 2 Strub Stakes here on Feb. 13.
Misremembered was favored in the Malibu and Strub, but was the 4-1 third choice in the Big Cap.
"Last time, I was so disappointed," Baffert said. "You've got to let him roll. He's got one speed. He really dug in and the mile and a quarter was not a problem for him.
"This horse had to run big. He didn't have any excuses. He showed today he's a good horse."
The winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last summer, Misremembered made his third appearance in a Grade 1 in the Big Cap. He was 10th in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar last summer, when Baffert said he lacked maturity. On Saturday, Misremembered showed enough poise to give Baffert his first Big Cap win since General Challenge in 2000.