Jockey Rafael Bejarano earned his second grade I win of the day after guiding Double Trouble to victory in the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap earlier on the card.
But it wasn't easy for Bejarano, who had to work hard keeping the 3-year-old California-bred filly on a straight course while racing down the center of the track to the wire. Drifting out on her wrong lead in spite of right-handed urging, Golden Doc A gradually wore down the front-running Lovely Isle to win the one-mile test by one length.
“She relaxed good, and I decided to just take her wide turning for home because I wanted to stay out of trouble," Bejarano said. "She drifted out through the stretch because she didn’t want to switch leads. I tried to help her a little bit, but I decided to leave her alone. Even though she drifted out, she was really running well and she finished great.”
The daughter of Unusual Heat--Penpoint (by Crested Wave) rallied wide from dead last in the field of six to register her third win in 10 lifetime starts.
The winner was favored in the Las Virgenes after a fine closing second, a head behind the undefeated Indian Blessing, in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) on Santa Anita's Cushion Track Jan. 13.
Golden Doc A made her first start for new owner Ron McCauley of Lexington, Ky. Trainer Barry Abrams, who also conditioned Unusual Heat, has had the chestnut filly throughout her career. She is the first grade I winner for Unusual Heat, a son of Nureyev. Golden Doc A's last win came in the Anoakia Stakes on Santa Anita's Cushion Track in October.
"It’s our first trip here, our first time to run a horse, and it’s been really, really good to have Golden Doc A take us to the winner’s circle," McCauley said. "It’s a beautiful track. This is strictly beginner’s luck from Kentucky.
"When you get a package like Barry Abrams and Golden Doc A, it is a great package whether you're on the east coast or the west coast," McCauley added. "I love a guy who hugs his horses."
Abrams, who earned his second grade I win, said he and McCauley would determine the next step for Golden Doc A, who was bred by David Abrams.
The $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) at nine furlongs would be the leading option. "She loves this track, why go somewhere else? It’s a grade I race here, too," Barry Abrams said.
"I was confident the whole time," the trainer said. "When you have the best horse in the race, you don’t worry. The track was my only concern. She's a very, very good horse and she's improving. Who knows how far she'll go."
Lovely Isle made an early lead by one length while setting moderate early fractions, but came under pressure from the outsider Peisinoe through splits of :23.30, :46.06, and 1:10.33. Lovely Isle, ridden by David Flores, shook free in the lane and proved difficult to run down before tiring a bit in the final sixteenth of a mile. She was a clear second by 2 3/4 lengths over the stalking Tasha's Miracle, the second choice in the field who appeared to have no excuse while settling for third under Martin Garcia.
Divine Legacy, Grace Anatomy, and Peisinoe completed the order. Czechers scratched. The winning time was 1:35.86.
Golden Doc earned $150,000 to boost her career bankroll to $345,356. She carried co-top weight of 118 pounds and paid $5.20, $2.80, and $2.40. Lovely Isle, now trained by Bobby Frankel, returned $4.80 and $3.40. Tasha's Miracle, a grade III winner at Del Mar last summer for conditioner John Sadler, was $3 to show.