In 2017, Itsinthepost was second in his first two starts and later won three stakes in a nine-race campaign. Saturday, Itsinthepost won his first start of the year in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita.
The quick success so early in the calendar is an indication of the high hopes for Itsinthepost this year.
"He's a changed horse," jockey Tyler Baze said.
Sent off favored, Itsinthepost won the $201,725 San Gabriel Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Flamboyant in his first start since a seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4. In the San Gabriel, Itsinthepost stalked pacesetter Smokey Image for the first seven furlongs before taking the lead in early stretch.
"The race set up exactly as I thought," Baze said. "I was where I wanted to be. When I wanted him to go, he was ready for me."
Itsinthepost repelled a challenge from 6-1 Flamboyant, who closed from last.
"I thought I had them for a second," said jockey Drayden Van Dyke, who rode Flamboyant.
Itsinthepost ($6.60) ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.59.
"I couldn't pull him up," Baze said.
Editore, a 17-1 outsider, finished third, followed by Smokey Image, Isotherm, Free Rose, He Will, Win the Space, Tequila Joe and Top of the Game.
Itsinthepost was second in the 2017 San Gabriel Stakes and later won three Grade 2 races at distances ranging from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles - the San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita in March, the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April, and the John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita in October.
In the BC Turf, Itsinthepost was as close as fourth in the final half-mile and was beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Talismanic.
"We gave him two weeks after the Breeders' Cup and started him slowly," trainer Jeff Mullins said.
"He's trained outstanding."
Owned by Jed Cohen and his family, Itsinthepost has won 7 of 31 starts and earned $855,712. A 6-year-old gelding, Itsinthepost is by American Post and was bred in France. Mullins said a campaign of turf marathon stakes will be planned this year.