Splendid Blended became the first 3-year-old filly to capture Hollywood Park's Vanity Handicap (gr. I) since It's In The Air in 1979 when she won by a head over determined Island Fashion in a desperate finish Sunday.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Splendid Blended was making her first appearance against older fillies and mares and just her second start since winning the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) to conclude her 2-year-old campaign in December. Bailey was also aboard the Neil Drysdale-trained daughter of Unbridled's Song
in the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 4 when she faded to fourth behind Round Pond after setting a torrid pace.
Drysdale won his fourth Vanity to tie Ron McAnally and Charlie Whittingham for most victories in the prestigious race. He previously won with 4-year-olds Princess Rooney, Magnificent Lindy and Gorgeous. Splendid Blendid is the seventh 3-year-old filly to win the Vanity.
"In the Acorn, she was just unlucky," Drysdale said. "She got caught in a speed duel, and got pushed along too fast. So in this particular case we reversed, and we were behind the speed horse."
Sunday, Splendid Blended survived a rough start when she veered out going into the clubhouse turn and bumped with I Can Yodele, settling into the second spot while tracking last month's Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) winner Andujar's solid pace.
"She wanted to go on the first turn, and I was trying to ease her back a little bit," Bailey said. "She didn't negotiate it very well, which wasn't high on my list, and it cost us a couple of lengths. But she recovered very quickly and was very professional from then on. I would have hated getting beat a nose with all that happened on the first turn."
With less than a furlong left, Splendid Blended edged in front of a tiring Andujar and dug deeply to hold off Island Fashion, who was ridden under strong urging by Patrick Valenzuela. The difference as the two rivals staggered home was a head bob at the wire. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Vanity, which was worth $300,000, was a pedestrian 1:49 1/5.
"I knew I had the leader (Andujar) at the head of the lane, but I didn't know if anybody else might run me down because I did have to tie into her (Andujar) leaving the half-mile pole fairly early," Bailey said. "I didn't want her to get away from me. You run the risk when you do that of somebody running you down late, but fortunately it worked out."
Andujar, the 3-5 favorite ridden by Corey Nakatani under top weight of 121 pounds, finished third, less than a length behind the first two.
"It was the first time my filly had gone this far, and I think that might have been asking a lot of her between this race and the last one," Nakatani said.
"It's definitely a surprise that she didn't kick in the way she did last time when they came to her," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Andujar. "But you can't take anything away from Splendid Blended. After that first turn incident, to kick, to run the way she did was unbelievable."
Splendid Blended carried 113 pounds to her fourth win in six lifetime starts. Bred in Florida by owner Peter Vegso's racing stable, the chestnut filly from the Valid Appeal mare Valid Blend increased her earnings to $519,900.
The second choice in the field of eight paid $7.40, $5 and $2.80. Island Fashion, who made a big turn-around after three consecutive poor outings, returned $9.80 and $4. Andujar, who had a three-race winning streak snapped, was $2.20 to show.
Mexican invader Casty, a winner of 14 of 17 races and $322,333 in her native country, tired on the far turn while racing in mid-pack under David Flores and was not a factor.
Santa Candida was fourth, followed by Hollywood Story, Healthy Addiction, Casty and I Can Yodele. Tucked Away scratched.