The rolling freight train that is Express Train makes another stop Saturday in Santa Anita Park’s Grade 2 Californian Stakes. That’s one of the featured events of the California track’s return to racing after a week’s planned hiatus between its Winter and Spring meets.

Express Train-Californian
Santa Anita Handicap winner Express Train rides into Saturday’s Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita Park with a three-race winning streak. (Image: Benoit Photo)

The last time we saw Express Train, he was roaring to his first Grade 1 victory in March’s Santa Anita Handicap. Now, we see the 5-year-old Union Rags horse tangle with five other rivals in the 1 1/8-mile route as the 4/5 morning line favorite.

Two of those rivals are familiar: Spielberg (6/1) and Stilleto Boy, the 5/2 second favorite on Jon White’s morning line. Express Train blew away both of them in that Big ‘Cap victory, beating third-place Stilleto Boy by nine lengths and fourth-place Spielberg by 10 ¼.

That gave Express Train his third consecutive victory, adding on to Grade 2 scores in December’s San Antonio Stakes and February’s San Pasqual Stakes. Dating to last summer’s Grade 2 San Diego Handicap victory at Del Mar, Express Train won four of his last six races. The only blemishes came with a third in the Grade 1 Awesome Again last September, which is one of Santa Anita’s most competitive stakes races, and a sixth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic last August.

Express Train one of the most consistent horses on the West Coast

The 96 Equibase Speed Figure Express Train ran in that Pacific Classic was his only double-digit Equibase in his last 14 races, dating to the 2019 American Pharoah Stakes when Express Train was a 2-year-old.

That he’s still racing is an anomaly. You see geldings race as 5-year-olds. But you don’t often see full horses enter starting gates at that age. By then, the good ones are in breeding sheds, entering the early part of their stallion careers. Which is why a horse as good as Express Train is a story every time he enters a starting gate.

“We’re just fortunate he’s that type of horse,” trainer John Shirreffs told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. “He’s hearty, very courageous and strong and seems to be in a really good cycle right now.”

Local ownership keeps him running

A big reason for Express Train’s continued career is his owners: Lee and Susan Searing. The Claremont, CA couple formed one of those small stables – CRK Racing – that everyone loves reading about, but nobody pays attention to until they get an Express Train. Or a Rombauer.

Tracks all over the country have family owners like the Searings, who never get the headlines because they’re not spending millions on yearlings at auctions. Even though the Searings owned 2020 Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P., who finished fourth in that year’s Kentucky Derby, you don’t typically see them on the Triple Crown trail. John Fradkin’s adventures with Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer last year was a true anomaly.

Lee Searing runs his family steel tubing business. Like many, he got into racing when his father took him to the track as a youngster. When he and Susan started their stable, they named it after their children’s initials: Christina, Richard and Katherine.

A quietly successful family barn

Express Train is the most successful CRK Racing horse, but by no means the only successful product. The barn has three millionaires: Express Train ($1.325 million), the mare Switch (nearly $1.3 million) and Kobe’s Back ($1.021 million). Express Train and Switch own Grade 1 wins and Switch hit the board in two Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprints: second in 2010 and third in 2012.

CRK Racing also owned 2021 Hollywood Derby winner Beyond Brilliant. The stable amassed more than $16.8 million in earnings.