Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Foxysox grabbed the lead from pacesetting Forest Melody mid-stretch, gradually extending her narrow advantage to nearly a length, then held on for dear life in the final strides to nose the unlucky Black Mamba at the wire. I Can See, a 41-1 shot, was also flying at the end and was just a nose behind in third in a thrilling stretch duel.
"It was a question of the distance but she has settled down so nicely this year, we thought she could do it and we were right," said Gaines, winning at nearly a 30% clip at the Santa Anita meet that concludes April 20. At one recent point in the meet, the veteran trainer won with six consecutive starters and with 11 of 15.
The hard-trying 5-year-old Foxysox snapped a five-race losing streak in the Santa Barbara, just her second try at the 1 1/4-mile distance. She won in an excellent time of 2:00.45 on firm footing. The Santa Barbara was returned to the 1 1/4-mile distance this year after being contested at nine furlongs last year.
Owned by Warren B. Williamson, with whom Gaines has enjoyed so much recent success with Nashoba's Key and so many others, Foxysox won for the first time since taking the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa Handicap (gr. IIT) on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track Dec. 3, 2006. The English-bred daughter of Foxhound missed nine months of racing in 2007 but had shown improvement in each of her starts since returning in mid-December. Most recently, she was the fourth head on the wire in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) on the grass March 23. Foxysox has now won four of seven starts on the Santa Anita turf course.
Foxysox stalked the pace in third on the outside of the front-running Forest Melody, who set a sensible pace for the distance of :24.28, :47.70 and 1:12.07. With a quarter-mile to run, favored Double Trouble, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, kicked up the pressure. But it was Foxysox, racing three wide into the stretch, who eventually gained a short lead near the eighth pole. She was under strong urging from Espinoza to hold on over Black Mamba, who was blocked leaving the final turn until mid-stretch under Jose Valdivia Jr.
"I was actually a little worried going to the far turn because Bejarano’s filly (Double Trouble) was lugging out a little and I didn’t want my filly to get bumped around," Espinoza said. "The distance was a question for her, but she’s got a big heart and she didn’t want to get beat today. Carla’s so hot right now, you’re confident when you ride for her. You feel like you’re not going to run out of horse.”
Black Mamba angled off heels with a furlong to run to put in her usual big finish, closing with a flourish to just miss. The first two were joined in the final strides by I Can See, who closed from the rear of the eight-horse field on the far outside for Jon Court and finished with interest.
"Victor has ridden (Foxysox) a lot, and again, last year we never thought she’d get much over a mile and a sixteenth. But this year, she’s matured and settled and relaxed in her training and so we gave it a whirl," said Gaines after her sixth stakes win of the meet. "It was just exciting that it worked. I did (think she won, watching the race live), and then I was scared maybe we got nosed out. It was awfully close.”
Forest Melody, the grade I winning Double Trouble, Solva, Persian Express and second choice Lavender Sky completed the order.
Foxysox earned her sixth win in 20 lifetime starts and boosted her bankroll to $596,718 with the winner's share of $120,000. She carried 116 pounds to victory and paid $11.40, $5.60 and $4.60 as the fourth choice of the public.
The 5-year-old New Zealand mare Black Mamba, who seems to never catch a break, has now been second in five grade II tries since transferring to the U.S. last summer. The John Sadler trainee also finished third in Oak Tree's Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT), by less than a length. Black Mamba returned $5.60 and $4.6 while rounding out a $2 exacta worth $60.80.
I Can See was $10.80 to show in her first try at the 1 1/4-mile distance.
Colina Verde, Immortelle and Lemonette scratched.