CRK Stable’s Express Train started off 2022 the same way he did 2021—with a victory in the $200,500 San Pasqual Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. He even crossed the wire first by the same 3 1/4-length margin.
The 5-year-old son of Union Rags is one of only four horses to win the race twice since it was inaugurated in 1935 and the first since King’s Favor won back-to-back editions in 1968-69. Lee and Susan Searing’s CRK Stable has won the race the past three years, capturing it with midcourt in 2020.
“I think this was a little bit more difficult for him,” trainer John Shirreffs said when comparing Express Train’s two San Pasqual wins. “There was a lot going on early with the fast pace. He was in the 2 hole … Nobody got to relax because Mike (Smith)’s horse (American Theorem ) came up on the outside and wanted to force the pace, so it was do or die time then. We’re looking forward to the Big ‘Cap (Santa Anita Handicap, G1).
“Mr. and Mrs. Searing have been loyal fans and patrons of the sport. It’s just great to be able to train for them and to have a horse as good as Express Train for them.”
Express Train proved much the best in the 1 1/8-mile race for older horses Feb. 5. He marked the fourth graded stakes win of his career and built on his victory in the Dec. 26 San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita last out.
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“He’s a better horse today. He’s obviously a big, good-looking, strong horse and you know, John has a way of training horses like this,” Lee Searing said. “This is phenomenal, this horse was really ready. The whole month John said, ‘I think he’s written close to the top of his game.’ So today proved it. This was kind of a watch-it-again, wild start of the race. Victor (Espinoza) did a great job. Victor, the groom, John’s help. They are all the best.”
Express Train found himself in command at the five-sixteenths pole and had no trouble opening up down the stretch. He completed the distance on a fast track in 1:50.99 and paid $5.20 for a $2 win ticket.
“It got a little bit complicated out of the gate because I thought the two horses outside of me were going to go and make the pace,” Espinoza said. “Then the one decided to take back, and I already next to them, so that kind of made my decision to go forward and stay there rather than be stuck on the inside. It’s all about the horses too. Express Train, he helped me to move with such confidence, at that point that I was not afraid to just let him go. It was one of those things where you have to make a decision and hope for the best. Today it seemed like we did the right combination and it worked.
“I think the last time (San Antonio Stakes), he won but he was not 100%, because he had a little time off in between that race. But now he’s ready to go. I had the opportunity to come and work him a couple times. He was a solid five-eighths both times and I was very happy. John was also very happy. He was happy the way he was doing. Coming into this race I was confident but in the race anything can happen. Things got a little complicated, but we resolved them quick.”
Express Train and Law Professor carried high weight of 124 lbs., spotting their other foes four lbs. a piece.
Express Train was bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms out of the Mineshaft pond I’m a Flake whose latest two foals are a 2-year-old Accelerate colt and a yearling full brother to Express Train. She was bred to Munnings for 2022. Express Train’s second dam is the multiple grade 1 winner November Snow .
Mayberry Farm purchased Express Train for $500,000 from Lane’s End’s consignment to the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The horse has earned $935,800 from a 6-4-3 record in 16 starts.