On Presidents' Day at Santa Anita, the Derby contenders got the day off as their older counterparts took to the track. The main event was the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap for older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the main track with a purse of $250,000. Surprisingly, the 5-2 morning line favorite Island Fashion, who was to have gone for her third consecutive Grade 1 win, instead went out for a 1 1/2 mile gallop in the morning and was scratched from the race. Trainer Marcelo Polanco said, "The owner (Jeffrey Nielsen) called me yesterday about noon and said he would like to run in the next Grade 1 in a bigger race for more money," likely the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 14.
Star Parade prevails over Bare Necessities in the Santa Maria Handicap.
So, only six went to the post in the Santa Maria, with Star Parade sent off as the 6-5 favorite. Under jockey Victor Espinoza, Star Parade gunned to the front right away and led the field through early fractions of 22.59, 46.00, 1:10.52, and 1:36.87 for the mile. In deep stretch, 5-2 third choice Bare Necessities was closing gamely after stalking the pace in fourth, but was too late to catch the favorite. Star Parade held onto the lead by a head at the wire in a final time of 1:43.87. It was another 2 lengths back to 14-1 shot La Tour in third. 2.30-1 second choice Adoration, winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff, stalked Star Parade the whole way but weakened late in the stretch run, fading to fourth. Results Chart
Trainer Darrell Vienna with Star Parade and jockey Victor Espinoza.
Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "She's a tough horse to beat. Today I had to rush her out of the gate to get to the lead. That's the way she runs and we can't change her style. When she's leading I don't care about the fractions at all, she still keeps going. Darrell Vienna knows how to train this filly. You know he'll have the horse ready to go so that gave me confidence coming down the stretch."
Winning trainer Darrell Vienna said, He's (Victor Espinoza) ridden her in some races and she can do just about anything. He told me when Adoration went today, that she (Star Parade) just took off with him so we really didn't have a strategy. I felt we'd be on the lead but it was not a plan that we had to follow. But you could see how rank she was. She was just pulling the whole way."
Jose Valdivia Jr, aboard runner-up Bare Necessities, said, "This filly deserves to win a Grade One, but Star Parade's the real deal, she's a nice filly. I felt like we were going pretty quick out there and I thought I was going to be able to get there. But I couldn't get up in time. But my filly ran huge."
Puerto Banus (center) holds off Meteor Storm (inside) and Continuously (outside) in the San Luis Obispo Handicap.
The other stake on the card was the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap for older horses going 1 1/2 miles over the turf with a purse of $200,000. Twelve faced the starter here, with Continuously the lukewarm 7-2 favorite breaking from the outside post. 15-1 shot Meteor Storm set a moderate pace of 25.51, 49.83, 1:15.15, 1:40.90, and 2:04.90, saving ground while dueling with 4.40-1 third choice Researched. Turning for home, 4-1 fourth choice Puerto Banus and the favorite Continuously made their moves toward the leaders. Closing gamely and circling the field, the pair hit the wire together, with Puerto Banus getting the best of the favorite by a neck in 2:28.00. It was a blanket finish, with 11-1 shot Continental Red a head back in third, and just a nose ahead of the pacesetter Meteor Storm, who in turn was just a neck in front of the deep closing 15-1 shot Labirinto in fifth. Results Chart
Past winner of the San Luis Obispo Handicap Eddie Delahoussaye presents the trophy to jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Kristin Mulhall.
Winning trainer Kristin Mulhall said, "He ran great and got through a small hole. Victor (Espinoza) rode him great. I didn't tell Victor anything. He knows the horse. He's been on him long enough."
Winning jockey Victor Espinoza said, "That's the way this horse likes to run, just sit back and make one strong run. It was kind of a little bit rough on the last turn. But we got lucky and got through. The horse has a lot of heart. He never gives up. For a minute it looked a little bit tight, but when you have a better horse than anybody else you're not afraid to let it go through a tight hole. "