Even-money choice Iotapa made it consecutive grade I scores with her victory in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes Aug. 2 at Del Mar, but was all out to get the job done with jockey Joe Talamo (VIDEO).
Iotapa, a $50,000 claim out of her debut race in June 2012, posted her sixth lifetime win from 12 starts for Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler. GEM Inc., Steven Bajer, and Robin O'Hara bred Iotapa, a daughter of Afleet Alex , in Kentucky.
Under strong urging from Talamo, Iotapa inched ahead of pacesetter Broken Sword approaching the wire to prevail in the 1 1/16-mile test by half a length. The final time was 1:43.04 on Del Mar's Polytrack.
Iotapa smashed the field in the Vanity Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park by 10 1/4 lengths June 14.
Broken Sword, making her first start since the La Canada (gr. II) in January, was second in the Hirsch, with her Jerry Hollendorfer-trained stablemate Parranda third. Fiftyshadesofhay ran fourth in the field of six older fillies and mares.
Iotapa earned a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 31 with the victory in the "Win & You're In" challenge race.
Broken Sword, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, hustled out of the gate to get the lead from Iotapa and Fiftyshadesofhay, who both dropped back off the front-runner after a swift opening quarter mile of :22.60. Broken Sword led by two to three lengths up the backstretch while slowing things down a bit, stepping the half mile in :46.61 and three-quarters in 1:11.19.
Looking like she was going to be tough to catch, Broken Sword maintained control rounding the far turn as Talamo asked Iotapa for more and Parranda launched her bid from near the rear of the pack. Iotapa reached even terms in the stretch but was bearing out through the lane as Talamo urged her on with the right-handed stick. The hard-trying dark bay filly refused to give in, however, overcoming a determined Broken Sword and prevailing in the final yards.
"I have to tip my cap to that Hollendorfer filly (Broken Sword)," Talamo said. "She was tough today. Coming off a layoff and she ran hard. When we made the turn (for home), I let my filly drift out on purpose. I didn't want to get near her (Broken Sword). You don't want to take on those tough ones.
"My filly is special and this was a heckuva win for her. And I have to give John Sadler all the credit. He's picked his spots for this filly and she's really doing well."
Broken Sword held second, two lengths clear of turf mare Parranda, The latter, after bobbling at the start, looked dangerous off the bend but struggled home in her first try on Polytrack with Elvis Trujillo aboard. Fiftyshadesofhay also struggled late to finish fourth, 3 3/4 lengths behind the winner, followed by More Chocolate and Doinghardtimeagain.
"We went to the lead and she was comfortable," Bejarano said of Broken Sword. "Even when we were into the stretch, she was still going strong. She tried hard; really hard. But that layoff might have gotten to her. She may have needed this one."
Iotapa, out of the winning El Corredor mare Concinnous, has been a gem of consistency in her career, facing top company on the Southern California circuit and always putting in a superb effort. The only off-the-board performance of her career came in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at seven furlongs at Churchill Downs May 3, when she got away poorly and faded to sixth.
She previously won the Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February, and also recorded placings in the Santa Monica (gr. II), and Santa Margarita (gr. I) this season, and the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), Hollywood Oaks (gr. II), and San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) on grass in 2013.
With her latest win, Iotapa ran her career earnings to $796,796 with a record of 6-4-1 in 12 starts.
"I don't know what was going on," said Sadler assistant Larry Benavidez of Iotapa's weaving stretch run. "Maybe she was a little tired, maybe she was looking at things, but all I know is she got there first. Sometimes she's thought of as a speed-type filly but she showed another dimension today and went to the top of her division for sure."
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, she paid $4, $2.60, and $2.40 while keying a $15.40 exacta. Broken Sword, winner of the Bayakoa Stakes (gr. II) on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park last December, returned $4.40 and $3.40. Parranda, a multiple graded stakes winner on grass, paid $3.80 to show.
Legacy, one of three original Sadler entrants in the field, was scratched.