Wishing Gate made her 7-5 odds look like a gift as she overcame a wide starting berth to claim the $100,000 Autumn Miss Stakes (gr. III) while easily the best Oct. 26 on turf at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Jockey Gary Stevens never needed the whip as Wishing Gate, in spite of giving away plenty of ground, moved into contention on the far turn and was ridden out to the wire by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetter Journey On. Charlie Em was third in the field of 11 sophomore fillies. The final time for the one-mile distance was 1:34.67 over firm ground.
Winner of the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IT) over one mile at Del Mar July 21, Wishing Gate was coming off a solid second to well-regarded Discreet Marq in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) Aug. 17.
Tom Proctor trains Wishing Gate for owner Leonard Lavin's Glen Hill Farm. The Florida homebred bay filly is by Indian Charlie out of the dual graded stakes winner Rich in Spirit. The fast-developing Wishing Gate won for the third time in her past four starts.
"Since I brought her to California she's been a really nice filly," Proctor said. "Her mother was a nice mare. I might run next in the Matriarch (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park. We're kind of looking at that."
Journey On, breaking from the far outside post for Martin Pedroza, hustled to the front and angled to the inside going into the clubhouse turn as Wishing Gate, just inside of her, settled in seventh on the outside. Journey On held the advantage through quarter mile fractions of :23. 50, :48.17, and 1:11.66 with Need You Now, Charlie Em, and Caraquista chasing her.
"I hit the side of the gate pretty hard leaving there," said Stevens, who said he had planned otherwise to be quicker at the start but had Wishing Gate well in hand.
Leaving the quarter pole, Stevens allowed Wishing Gate to glide up on the leaders on the outside and she was soon in the lead as Journey On continued to fight at the rail and the Irish-bred Need You Now raced between them. Wishing Gate took command near the furlong marker and won with something left.
Journey On continued on resolutely to hold the runner-up spot at odds of 12-1 by a half-length over 14-1 Charlie Em and Julien Leparoux, who edged 9-2 second choice Need You Now for third.
"She's a good filly, real push-button," added the Hall of Fame rider. "I can put her where I want. She was real 'light-mouthed' before and they've changed some equipment, and she's training well, she's a real good filly. Julien (Leparoux, on Need You Now) looked over at about the five-sixteenths pole and did a double-take and I just had a smile on my face. Once we got out of the first turn I was pretty confident; she gives you that feeling throughout the race. She's got a nice turn of foot."
Wishing Gate improved her career mark to four wins and three seconds from 10 lifetime starts with earnings of $305,344. In her only prior start at Santa Anita just over a year ago, she was second to Autumn Miss opponent Flashy Ways in the Surfer Girl Stakes.
The winner is the first starter and winner produced by her dam, who earned $606,066 in a 26-race career that included victories in the 2005 Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Locust Grove Stakes (gr. IIIT), both at Churchill Downs. The mare has a 2-year-old by Tiznow , a yearling by Malibu Moon , and a weanling by Candy Ride still to start.
The $250,000 Matriarch at one mile is Dec. 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Under equal weights of 117 pounds, Wishing Gate paid $4.80, $3.60, and $3.40 while keying a $60 exacta with Journey On, who returned $10.40 and $8. The runner-up was on a three-race win streak for trainer Doug O'Neill and was making her stakes debut. Grade III winner Charlie Em paid $7 to show, rounding out a $2 trifecta worth $545.40.
Need You Now was followed by Oscar Party, Include the Aussie, Flashy Ways, Wittgenstein, Heir Kitty, Miss Empire, and Caraquista. Also eligibles Ighraa and Becky Lou scratched.