Affluent and jockey Alex Solis found room on the inside behind a wall of horses in the stretch and went on to defeat heavily-favored Sightseek in the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares Saturday at Santa Anita.
The 5-year-old Affirmed mare had a full head of steam after stalking a fast pace in the seven-furlong event, but didn't appear to have anywhere to go in the stretch.
"I had the choice of going five or six wide or through a little hole on the inside," Solis said. "I remembered she (Affluent) beat me going inside last year (in the La Brea) so I knew she could do it. And she did it easy."
Solis rode Affluent, who carried high weight of 119 pounds, for the first time. A crowd of 17,108 was in attendance Saturday, drawn by the Sunshine Millions races and the Santa Monica. They saw two superb distaffers battle in this one.
Affluent got past Sightseek, who appeared to be in control with Jerry Bailey guiding the way while making a three-wide move on the turn for home. The favorite came on again on the inside to make it close at the end. Affluent won by a half-length in a time of 1:22.17.
"She really is a super classy mare," Solis said. "She likes to take her time; that's her style. She broke real sharply, but because there was so much speed, she just kind of relaxed and took her time. I knew I had (the win) when she just ran by that other filly (runner-up Sightseek) at the eighth pole and ran away from them at the end."
Bailey conceded nothing in defeat for Sightseek, who had a four-pound weight advantage over Affluent.
"She ran well," he exclaimed. "That other filly just outran her in the stretch. I think she'd probably like longer (distance)."
Janis R. Whitham owns and bred Affluent, who is out of the Strawberry road mare Trinity Place. Ron McAnally trains Affluent, who notched her fourth career Grade I win.
Noting that Affluent, a great granddaughter of the McAnally-trained champion Bayakoa, has won Grade I races on the turf and dirt at distances of seven to nine furlongs, McAnally said, "She can do anything."
"I felt it was a good time to try her on the dirt leading up to some of the other races a little bit longer (in distance)," McAnally said. "She came through for us."
Asked if Affluent was fully cranked for the Santa Monica, McAnally said, "Not really. I knew she was up to her task today. Of course, she was top weight in the race. She's as versatile as any horse I've ever had – except for John Henry (laughing). They're both very similar in that they can do them both (run on grass and dirt)."
Kitty On the Track, tracked by longshot Live Free or Die, set fast fractions of :22.13 and :44.66 before they backed out of it in the stretch, creating the opening that Solis and Affluent were able to exploit.
Affluent picked up a winner's share of $120,000 for the victory, her eighth overall along with five seconds and three third-place finishes in 20 starts. She has now earned $1,433,415 in her career.
Sent off at 5-2 in the field of seven, Affluent paid $7, $2.80 and $2.10. Sightseek, the 3-5 favorite ridden by Jerry Bailey, paid $2.40 and $2.10. Secret of Mecca was third, paying $2.40. The $2 exacta was $12.60.