Island Fashion, winner of the Santa Monica Handicap with Kent Desormeaux up.
The first Grade 1 stakes race of the year was run on Sunday at Santa Anita, when a field of six older distaffers went to the gate in the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint on the man track. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite was Sightseek, winner of four consecutive Grade 1 races last year but whose streak was stopped when she finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
When the field was sent underway, 32-1 shot Princess V. went for the front and set a brisk initial quarter mile of 21.98 seconds, with 16-1 shot Buffythecenterfold stalking her to her inside. Buffythecenterfold took over soon after, getting the half in 44.04 and she held the lead to mid stretch. However, 3-2 second choice Island Fashion, who had chased the pack wide down the long backstretch run early on, took a three wide path around the turn and, gaining in the upper stretch, a duel ensued. Island Fashion fought off Buffythcenterfold in the final furlong to win by 3/4 length in 1:21.37. It was another 1/2 length back to the late running 3-1 third choice Got Koko. Favored Sightseek stalked inside early, tried to gain on the turn but did not have another gear for the stretch run, finishing fourth. Results Chart
The trophy presentation for the Santa Monica.
Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "The track is very, very fast forcing us to be contentious early. It makes it very difficult to make up any ground on this track because the leaders are full of run right up to the end. When you tackle those leaders, they don't give in, you have to go by them with a lot of determination. That second horse didn't let us waltz by. We had to work for the lead. That race just proves that this filly has the determination to win. Marcelo (Polanco) has this filly ready to win. He had her eyes bugging out of her head and looking deeply through the bridle. She was ready for the challenges set forth today. She answered all the challenges I gave her."
Winning trainer Marcelo Polanco.
Jockey Matt Garcia, aboard runner-up Buffythecenterfold, said, "I didn't get the kind of trip I was hoping for. I was hoping I could shake clear of those horses and get to the front, but I got caught in a speed duel on the backside. Once we got to the quarter pole I was pleased to see that the filly (Buffythecenterfold) still had go power to dig in, but it wasn't enough."
Buffythecenterfold's trainer Mel Stute said, "I believe post position (No. 1) beat her. I definitely don't think there's been a (post) one win going seven-eighths in two years that I can remember. But I might be wrong, too. You always look for an excuse but I guarantee you if I had been on the outside they wouldn't have beat us. She doesn't give up. She's something special."
Bruce Headley, trainer of third place finisher Got Koko, said "She ran beautiful. She just couldn't catch them."
Jerry Bailey, aboard beaten favorite Sightseek, said, "She just didn't get into the race like she usually does. Usually when I give the nod she will put me in behind the speed and finish them off."
Photos courtesy of Tina Hines
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