Santa Monica Stakes
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Early Triple Crown noms
Jockey Garrett Gomez celebrates aboard Filly and Mare Sprint winner Ventura.
The first Breeders' Cup World Championships race for 2008 was the $1 million Sentient Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. A field of 13 older fillies and mares (reduced from the field maximum of 14 after Indyanne scratched) went to post in this 7 furlong trip around one turn of the Pro-Ride main track. Indian Blessing, last year's champion juvenile filly, was sent off as the 9-5 favorite exiting wins in the Gallant Bloom, Test, and Prioress stakes. In to challenge her included 3-1 second choice Ventura, second against males in the Woodbine Mile after finishing second in the CashCall Mile, and 5-1 third choice Zaftig, winner of the Acorn and the Nassau County.
Ventura rallies 5 wide early in the stretch to run down Indian Blessing.
Indian Blessing battled for the lead with 13-1 Dearest Trickski through fast fractions of 22.26 and 22.02 down the backstretch and into the turn. Turning for home, the battle continued but Ventura, who had sat back in 10th early on, was sent 5 wide by jockey Garrett Gomez and she circled the field, passing Indian Blessing just inside the 1/8 pole and powered away to a 4 length win in 1:19.90 over the officially fast track. It was another 2 lengths back from Indian Blessing to Zaftig third. The time was just 1/100 second off Indian Blessing's track record set in the Santa Ynez in January.
This was the first of four Breeders' Cup wins for jockey Garrett Gomez over the two days of racing. His other wins were in the Sprint with Midnight Lute, the Juvenile aboard Midshipman, and the Dirt Mile aboard Albertus Maximus. Ironically, it was Gomez who rode Indian Blessing when she won the Juvenile Fillies last year.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 12 Ventura Gomez 7.60 3.40 3.00 5 Indian Blessing Velazquez 3.40 2.40 6 Zaftig Bejarano 4.00 Winning Time: 1:19.90 $1 Exacta 12-5 12.70 $1 Trifecta 12-5-6 48.70 $1 Superfecta 12-5-6-10 733.30Results chart
Right: Owner Prince Khalid Abdullah of Juddmonte Farm and trainer Bobby Frankel in the winner's circle. Frankel said, "She showed a great turn afoot, that's for sure. It was an exciting race. And, you know, I was waiting for her to do it, but you never know until they do it if they're going to do it, and she did it. She came off a mile (at Woodbine) on soft ground, which I don't think was her best. I thought maybe if she had gotten firm ground up there, she might have won. But she ran a great race, and probably gave her the stamina to run as fast as she could today. I thought this was the best race for her. It looked like it was going to set up for her with all the speed. When she came over from England, she adapted so quickly and she turned around so fast that, you know, I think she can do anything."
Left: Ventura comes out of the tunnel to the track before the race. She seems to always be flighty like this, even in the morning works.
Right: Ventura in the post parade. Winning jockey Garrett Gomez said, "I just was real patient with her today. She found herself in a good spot and tracked well. She just inhaled them. Actually, I was at the 3/8th pole, just sitting there, biding my time. I got there, I was looking to see she was traveling as well as she felt. I started to edge out a little bit, and all of a sudden, I was four lengths off the lead within a blink of an eye. When I went ahead and moved her out, I knew I had her. That's when I felt on Midnight Lute last year (in the Sprint)."
Second place finisher and beaten favorite Indian Blessing returns after the race. Her jockey John Velazquez said, "Perfect trip. She broke really well, I let the other horse go, and sat right outside of her. I even eased away from the other horses. I got head and head with the horse on the lead, and down the stretch, straightened out, and she came running. That horse still ran right by me. I couldn't believe it. I was running too. I knew the horse on the lead is really fast. I wanted to let her go, and I was waiting for someone else to go with them, but they didn't show up, so I just sat off of her on the backside real easy. We ran our race today. (Ventura) just ran a little better."
Her trainer Bob Baffert added, "She ran a great race. She did all she could but the winner just ran a tremendous race, almost a track record. (Bobby) Frankel was right. He was telling me all week that he was going to get me and he did."
Third place finisher Zaftig runs out after the finish. Her jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "She broke well but I had to use her a little the first furlong. After that, we saved some ground and were in perfect position. Indian Blessing was in front of us and at the 3/8 pole I just followed her. The other filly (Ventura) flew by us on the outside. I tried to catch Indian Blessing for second but couldn't."
Her trainer Jimmy Jerkens added, "She ran really good. She may have gotten a little tired because she hasn't raced since June and had to run pretty fast to keep pace. She tried hard. She's a classy filly."
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