Wertheimer Farm's unbeaten Halfbridled, the likely favorite for next month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), showed her versatility in winning Sunday's $250,000 Oak Leaf States (gr. II) for jockey Julie Krone at Santa Anita.
Stretching to two turns for the first time, the daughter of Unbridled, favored at 3-10, used front-running tactics for the first time in her three-race career. After taking the best her six opponents had to offer, she drew off in the stretch for a 4 1/2-length win over Tarlow in a time of 1:43 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf. Maiden Hollywood Story, second to Halfbridled in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) on Aug. 30, rallied to get third, 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Shadow of Mine.
"She is truly amazing," Krone.said enthusiastically of Halfbridled. "Her stride is incredible, and again she galloped out like a monster. She's just so professional and so easy to ride. She's push-button and I just get the pleasure of riding her. I lean forward and she goes. I lean back and she stops. She just grabs the ground and the ears go up and down. She's extremely athletic."
Trainer Richard Mandella agreed. "She really gives me goosebumps.
"I feel pretty confident in her (Halfbridled)," he added. "I said from the start she's a pretty special filly, so I think I'll stick with that. I hope we can keep everything healthy (until the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies)."
Mandella said Krone, who won her first Oak Tree stakes race, did a good job adjusting when Halfbridled jumped to the lead.
"We just kept her quiet up to her first race and let her settle back and finish. I told Julie in the second race, I said, 'Never mind what happened first time. She will leave there serious today.' And you can see what she did in the (Del Mar) Debutante. So today I told her this was too hard to figure out with all these young fillies, so just play it by ear and she did a beautiful job."
Halfbridled broke alertly but Krone slowed the pace down after going :24 for the opening quarter. Tarlow, a maiden winner in her debut at Del Mar Aug. 16, was having none of that and quickly moved up to challenge on the outside and took the lead after a half in :48. At the top of the turn, Halfbridled edged back in front while completing six furlongs in 1:12 2/5. When Tarlow, with Mike Smith aboard, came back on, joined by others, Krone urged Halfbridled for more and she regained a two-length lead at the top of the stretch. Under urging, she pulled away and finished up under a hand ride.
John Shirreffs, who trained both the second and third-place finishers, was far from disappointed.
"I thought Tarlow ran an exceptional race," he said. "It was only her second race, first time around two turns and a long time between races. I was very pleased with her effort, very pleased. (Hollywood Story) ran big again. She keeps trying. It's possible we could go in the Breeders' Cup. It looks like three very good fillies here."
With the $150,000 winner's share, Halfbridled increased her career earnings to $329,400 from three wins. The homebred is out of the Deputy Minister mare Half Queen.
The winner paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Tarlow returned $3.40 and $2.10. Hollywood Story's show price was $2.10. the $2 exacta was worth $8.40.