Resplendency, a 3-year-old filly trained by Bob Baffert, held off a late charge from Puxa Saco to win the $113,550 Monrovia Handicap by a length as jockey Casey Fusilier won his first stakes ever at Santa Anita.
Taken off the turf after a night of heavy rain, the Monrovia -- a 6 1/2-furlong contest for fillies and mares, was left with nine runners on a sloppy main track from the original field of 16. Originally scheduled as a grade III, the Monrovia became ungraded with the move to the main track, but the stakes grading committee will review the race and may restore it as a grade III. If it stays a Grade III, the Monrovia would be the final graded event in North America in 2004.
Resplendency was among the early leaders, and took the lead going into the turn. She finished gamely with the field bearing down on her, especially Puxa Saco, who made a huge run after going four-wide at the turn under jockey Mike Smith. The winning time was 1:15.34, the second-fastest of the 10 Monrovia Handicaps that have been run on the main track.
"There was an allowance for her that wasn't filling, so I thought if the Monrovia comes off the turf, we'd run," Baffert said. "She was sitting on a win like she did when she ran that awesome race at Del Mar (a six-furlong allowance Aug. 1)."
The victory was the first of the five-day-old meet and the richest ever for Fusilier, an 18-year-old native of Carencro, Louisiana who came to California in September.
"This is a dream come true," said Fusilier. "The track was sloppy but it felt great to me. I won a few stakes in Louisiana but this is the biggest one so far."
Resplendency carried 112 pounds and paid $12.60, $8.40 and $4.60. Puxa Saco carried 113 and paid $9.60 and $4.80. Heavy Favorite Market Garden, ridden by Rene Douglas at 115, was third and paid $2.60 to show.
Cyber Slew, Delizia, Chapeau, Woodlass, Coconut Girl and Spring Festival completed the order of finish. Belleski, Solar Echo, Shezsospiritual, Mazella, Valentine Dancer, Any for Love and Very Vegas all scratched.
Resplendency's win, combined with losses by favorites throughout the day, resulted in a Pick Six carryover of $107,803 that will be in play New Year's Day at Santa Anita.
It was the third win in seven lifetime starts for Resplendency, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat
owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis. The filly earned $68,130 for the win, bumping her lifetime bankroll to $158,600.