Gary A. Tanaka's Golden Apples, with Patrick Valenzuela riding, steered clear of trouble on the outside and went on to tally a one-length victory over Voodoo Dancer in the $500,000 Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Saturday.
Even-money favorite Banks Hill, last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf champion, was a troubled third, four lengths behind the winner.
The 1 1/4-mile winning time for the Irish-bred 4-year-old filly by Pivotal was 1:59.72. Golden Apples won the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington in her most recent start Aug. 17, and trainer Ben Cecil said there was no doubt he is planning to return for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Oct. 26.
"We are looking forward to it," he said.
"We'll either ship the Tuesday before (Oct. 22) or the Wednesday before (Oct. 23) the Breeders' Cup, three or four days out," Cecil said. "We'll keep her here. She likes training here and the turf course is great, so that'll be what we'll do."
Cecil and Valenzuela, who rode Golden Apples for the first time in the Beverly D., were extremely confident going into the Yellow Ribbon. The result didn't change that confidence.
"She was good in the Beverly D," said Valenzuela. "Today she was even better. We're two-for-two and we'll be three-for-three after the Breeders' Cup.
"She ran great. She sat off the leaders real easy. When Voodoo Dancer came to the inside of me, (Golden Apples) just completely put her away in the stretch without me even getting after her. I was very happy with her race today."
Valenzuela positioned Golden Apples third, several lengths behind the early leaders Noches de Rosa and Nepenthe, and outside of Voodoo Dancer. Banks Hill, with Corey Nakatani aboard, was down on the rail in fifth place, inside of Voodoo Dancer, ridden by Gary Stevens.
As Golden Apples swung outside to make her rally, Voodoo Dancer went with her on her inside. When the four horses hit the top of the stretch, Banks Hill had a wall in front of her. Golden Apples and Voodoo Dancer were well clear by the time Banks Hill found room.
Cecil noted, "I'm glad it's over. It worked out I well. I said (before the race) she was in the best shape ever, and I think she is. I think that's not quite her style. She got fanned very wide on that last bend, as well. It's not necessarily her style to lie as close to the pace as she did today."
Stevens said he and trainer Christophe Clement had decided to go for the lead before the race.
"It wasn't quite how we planned it," he said. But we wanted her relaxed, and she came away from there completely relaxed and I didn't want to get her started. She had a great trip and ran a helluva race. We snuck through (at the top of the lane) and I thought we had a chance, but that other mare is just too tough right now."
"I was in pretty tight (turning for home with Banks Hill) but when they quickened away from us, they were way outside," said Nakatani. "It was going to be the trip if I got it. The problem was they were going so darn slow, I probably should have been up there on the lead. But hindsight is 20-20."
Golden Apples won for the sixth time in 13 tries in her career. She is 3-for-5 with a pair of seconds this year. The $300,000 pay day pushed her career earnings to $1.45 million.
Sent off at 7-5 in the field of six, Golden Apples paid $4.80, $2.80 and $2.10. Voodoo Dancer returned $3.80 and $2.80. Banks Hill paid $2.10. The $2 exacta was $15.80.