Favored Stormy Lucy made her new connections look good when she came from off the pace to catch Miss Serendipity in the final strides to win the $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) April 13 on the turf at Santa Anita Park.
The winning 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic mare was purchased privately by Steve Moger and turned over to his brother, trainer Ed Moger, shortly after her victory in the Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) March 16. That win, Stormy Lucy's first in a graded stakes, ended a string of nine consecutive defeats in graded events.
Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard Stormy Lucy for the first time in the Santa Ana, brought her from well back in the drive for a nicely timed victory at odds of 17-10 in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Barbara. The final time was a strong 1:58.73 over firm going.
"She was much better today," said Bejarano, on the verge of the riding title at Santa Anita. "Her last race, she was rank when she was behind horses but today she relaxed. She and I were really comfortable the whole way, all the way to the three-eighths pole. So, I was confident to come around and let her go. I just wanted to make sure I was clear and away from any trouble."
The Argentine mare Miss Serendipity, after taking over from pacesetter Phonybooksnrecords, was clear in deep stretch and just missed while 4 1/4 lengths better than Changethechannel. Ridden by Brice Blanc, Miss Serendipity could have provided Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally his first-ever win in the Santa Barbara.
Phonybooksnrecords made a realistic pace along the inside in the field of eight older fillies and mares while leading Changethechannel and Champagneandcaviar through fractions of :23.73, :47.58, and 1:11.48.
Miss Serendipity, shifted off the rail in upper stretch, gained the lead and opened up by a length. But Stormy Lucy, who raced in sixth at the quarter pole, closed stoutly from the far outside to overcome Miss Serendipity under right-handed urging from Bejarano.
Second choice Customer Base, making a big move along the rail in the lane after the stalking the pace, lost all chance when steadied off heels as Phonybooksnrecords began to retreat mid-stretch. She finished last.
Bred in Kentucky by Mercedes Stable out of the Dixieland Band mare Here Comes Lucinda, Stormy Lucy registered her seventh win from 22 lifetime starts while boosting her earnings to $482,200. Victory in the Santa Barbara, which was demoted to a grade III event this year after being contested as a grade II since 1996, was worth $90,000.
Stormy Lucy, winning for the first time in four tries at the 10-furlong distance, was previously trained by Frank Lucarelli for Erica Gaunt, the widow of Frank Gaunt.
"The previous owner wanted to sell her and we had the opportunity to buy her, so we did," said Steve Moger. He indicated a start in the Gamely Stakes (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles, being contested for the first time at Santa Anita May 26, would likely be next for Stormy Lucy.
"Everything went well. I told you, I'm trying not to screw it up (after recently taking over training)," Ed Moger said. "The horse was ready-made when I got her."
Carrying top weight of 120 pounds, Stormy Lucy paid $5.40, $3 and $2.60 while keying a $23.60 exacta. Miss Serendipity a group I winner in Argentina at 1 1/4 miles, lost her fourth straight since being transferred to Southern California. She paid $4.60 and $3.80 to place. Changethechannel, ridden by Tyler Baze, paid $5.80.
"Stormy Lucy just out-kicked us," Blanc said of Miss Serendipity. "My mare ran her heart out. She's still just starting (in the U.S.); as soon as she gets adapted to the American way I think she'll have a bright future."
Champagneandcaviar was fourth, followed by Phonybooksnrecords, Floral Romance, Topic, and Customer Base.