Romance Is Diane proved she is back on the top of her game with a determined front-running victory over Tough Tiz's Sis in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track Dec. 1.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares was a Hollywood Cushion Track record of 1:40.90.

The 3-year-old California-bred filly won the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) a year ago over the same surface. But until her 6 1/4-length romp over state breds Nov. 3 in the California Cup Matron on Santa Anita's Cushion Track, she hadn't done much since, losing five starts in a row. Trainer Mike Mitchell gave her two months off prior to the Cal Cup Matron, which was her best previous performance and was also accomplished on the front end.

"I thought having her on the lead, no one could mess  with me," Mitchell said. "It worked out great. But I really didn't think she'd run like this."

With the speedy Sugar Shake in the line-up, jockey Michael Baze hustled Romance Is Diane to the front soon after the start. They carved fast early fractions -- :22 4/5, :45 1/5 and 1:08 4/5 -- with favored Sugar Shake and Tough Tiz's Sis relegated to second and third in the five-horse field. Heading into the far turn, Romance Is Diane had opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage. On the turn, Sugar Shake backed out of it along the inside, leaving only Tough Tiz's Sis, ridden by Garrett Gomez, to challenge in the lane.

The two 3-year-olds fought it out down the homestretch but the grade I winner Tough Tiz's Sis could not get on even terms with the stubborn Romance Is Diane, who won by one length.

The French mare Fonce De was two lengths back in third place, with Grain of Truth fourth. Grade I winner Sugar Shake, the 8-5 choice, finished last by 21 lengths.

Romance Is Diane carried 115 pounds, five less than the co-high weights, Tough Tiz's Sis and Sugar Shake. She gained her fifth win in 11 lifetime starts. Owned by Senji Nishimura, the dark bay daughter by In Excess--Romantic Fibs (by Prized) increased her purse total to $597,660. Swan Equine Service Co. bred Romance Is Diane.

After opening as the favorite in the wagering, Romance Is Diane was sent off as the narrow third choice, paying $7, $3.40 and $3.20 and topping an $18.40 exacta.

The Bob Baffert trained Tough Tiz's Siz, who defeated Hystericalady by a nose in Oak Tree's Lady's Secret (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 7 before a seventh-place showing in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) on the Monmouth Park slop, returned $3 and $2.20.

Fonce De, who had one prior start in the U.S. for trainer Jenine Sahadi, was $3.60 to show.

Mitchell said Romance Is Diane is going to race next year, but that she would not ship to Florida for the Sunshine Millions Distaff Jan. 26.

"I want to keep her on synthetic surfaces, so we'll probably shoot for the 4-year-old (La Canada) series at Santa Anita this winter," he said.

(Chart, Equibase)

Most Popular Stories