The 4-year-old filly Musical Chimes, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, squeezed between horses in a spectacular stretch run to win a frantic finish by a nose over Buckland Manor in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Saturday.
Two others, 3-2 favorite Singletary, on the extreme outside, and Gondolieri at the rail, finished right with the other two, with two noses separating the first three.
"What an amazing effort," exclaimed Desormeaux said afterward. "They were coming from all directions, but she stuck her neck out and got the job done. I love her to death."
Trained by Neil Drysdale for owner Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Musical Chimes became the first filly or mare to win the Oak Tree Mile in its 19 previous runnings.
"It was a very nice performance," Drysdale said. "I'll talk to the managers and we'll see what we're doing for the Breeders' Cup."
It was the third time that the In Excess
filly faced males and her first success. She's been mentioned as a candidate for either the Breeders' Cup Mile or the Filly & Mare Turf (both gr. IT) on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park. After racing for most of 2003 in France, she finished 11th in last year's Filly & Mare Turf.
"She's a tremendous athlete," Desormeaux said. "We keep coming at them (males) and today she got the job done."
Winner of the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar in July, Musical Chimes ran fourth, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in her last start Aug. 14. She's won four of 16 lifetime starts with earnings of $954,489.
Musical Chimes was third early while running comfortably behind the Chilean-bred pacesetter Gondolieri, ridden by Tyler Baze, and Buckland Manor, with Rene Douglas aboard. Gondolieri clicked off moderate fractions of :23 and :46 4/5 as the entire six-horse field was in close attendance.
In the stretch, Desormeaux made the winning move when he guided Musical Chimes into position to challenge for the lead while cutting off Tsigane, who was making great progress on the inside and appeared headed to the front. In the meantime Singletary, with David Flores aboard, closed in from the outside, leaving Tsigane and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. with nowhere to run through the lane.
The quartet dueled all the way to the finish in heart-pounding fashion with Musical Chimes prevailing over Buckland Manor in the head bob.
Musical Chimes paid $10, $5.40 and $2.60. Buckland Manor returned $7.60 and $3.40 ro complete a $61.40 exacta. Singletary, who was making his first start since May 31 and is definite for the Breeders' Cup Mile, was $2.40 to show.
"I didn't put pressure on him early, I just kind of let him get in stride and sat on him," Flores said of Singletary. "At the three-eighths pole I started getting after him because he's kind of lazy. He takes a little while to make a move. At the top of the stretch he was making a great run but the other horses didn't stop. They saved ground and I was on the outside. I never got a chance to save ground at all."