The Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, started the eight-race Sunshine Millions program pitting California and Florida breds in competition for a total of $3.6 million in prize money.
Mistical Plan, a California-bred daughter of Game Plan--Mistical Bel (Bel Bolide) trained by Doug O'Neill, was ridden to victory by David Flores at odds of 2-1 in the field of 12. The final time for the six-furlong event was 1:10 2/5.
Both of the first two finishers needed running room on the turn after Double Major, pressed by A.V. Flynn, set hot fractions of :21 1/5 and :44 3/5. Tiz Elemental, trapped along the inside in third under Victor Espinoza, got past on the outside as the pacesetters tired and opened up a clear advantage mid-stretch. Mistical Plan, eighth after a half-mile and trapped off heels at the quarter pole, emerged from the tangle in upper stretch and charged after the winner while racing erratically under left-handed urging by Flores. She drew even in the final couple of strides and hit the wire a nose in front.
“Around the turn, I was trying to follow (Tiz Elemental) and at the 3/16ths (pole) it opened up a little bit at the rail and we got through," Flores said. "It was close, but I thought we won it.”
The bay filly Mistical Plan notched her first win since taking Santa Anita's Cover Gal for California breds during the Oak Tree meeting in October. She has been favored in three of four starts since then, including an eighth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) in December and a fading third in Santa Anita's 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel (gr. III) in her last start Jan. 6. She turned in a bullet :35 three-furlong drill Jan. 22 on the Hollywood Cushion Track. Her third win in seven lifetime starts pushed her earnings to $235,765.
“I thought coming off two route races might dull her speed a little bit," O'Neill said. David just did a great job of staying relaxed, not panicking and once the hole opened up, she got through. I went from like, ‘Get third, get third,’ to ‘get second, get second,’ to, ‘omygosh, she might get up.’
"I wasn’t sure she got the bob. You always want to be a little bit negative just so you don’t get double-kicked if you don’t get it. I thought the other horse might have had her nose down at the right time, but I’m just so happy it worked out perfect.”
Carol Anderson bred the winner.
Mistical Plan paid $6.20, $4 and $3.20. Tiz Elemental, making her second lifetime start for trainer Carla Gaines, returned $10 and $6.40 and completed a $70 exacta. Double Major held on for third with Corey Nakatani aboard, paying $6.40.
Super Freaky finished fourth, followed by Sekira, A.V. Flynn, Prenuptial, High Cholesterol, Toll Road, Tizthen, Short Sentence and Go Ray Ray. Hello Bolly scratched.