‘A Rider’s Dream’: Royal Ship Returns Stylishly In Sunday’s John Shear Mile by Mike Willman/Santa Anita|04.11.2022|12:07pm Royal Ship winning the John Shear Mile in his 2022 debut Last year's Grade 2 Californian winner and idle since Aug. 21, Richard Mandella's classy Brazilian-bred gelding Royal Ship returned in style Sunday at Santa Anita, as he sat second to the far turn and took command while well within himself a quarter mile out en route to a dynamite five-length victory in the $75,000 John Shear Mile. Ridden by the only jockey he's known in North America, Mike Smith, Royal Ship got the distance in 1:36.07. Recently retired and a beloved figure at The Great Race Place for part of eight decades, John Shear retired as Santa Anita's longtime Paddock Captain this past summer and he turned 101 on Jan. 17. “He's always been a good horse, he just kinda got a little bit stiff and sore, so we gave him a break and he's paid us back,” said Mandella. “I'd say the Californian (for older horses at 1 1/8 miles April 30) would come up a little too quick for him. The Hollywood Gold Cup (Grade 1 at 1 ¼ miles on May 30) is a possibility. We'll just have to see how things go.” Things went just fine, thank you in today's Shear Mile, as Royal Ship broke sharply and sat a close second inside of pacesetter Affable. Even-up at the three-furlong pole, Royal Ship proved much too much when the real running started and powered home under a hand-ride from Smith. Second, beaten a head by eventual $12 million Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer three starts back in last year's Hollywood Gold Cup on May 31, Royal Ship had been idle since well beaten at 5-2 in the G1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. The class of the field, he was off as the 7-5 favorite in a field of seven and paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60. “He's a dream,” said Smith, who's ridden Royal Ship in all nine of his stateside starts dating back to his U.S. debut on Aug. 23, 2020. “He's a rider's dream. When he's happy and healthy like he is now, he's a really good horse…I know Mr. Porter (late owner, Rick) is looking down on us from heaven right now and he's a pretty happy guy.” Attentive to the pace while third most of the trip, Triple Tap checked in second by 2 ¾ lengths over Affable. Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Triple Tap was off at 7-2 and paid $4.00 and $3.80. Affable, with apprentice Diego Herrera up, was off at 8-1 and paid $4.00 to show. Fractions on the race were 23.10, 46.95, 1:10.58 and 1:23.19. Live racing resumes at Santa Anita on Friday, with first post time for an eight-race card at 1 p.m.