Diamond A Racing Stable's Noches de Rosa notched the biggest win of her career Saturday, upsetting Garden in the Rain and even-money favorite Megahertz with a front-running effort in the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) on the turf at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Mike Smith, 14-1 shot Noches de Rosa went to the lead early in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Ana when no one in the eight-horse field seemed to want it. She was able to nurse it down the stretch to win by a half-length over fast-closing Garden in the Rain, who outran Megahertz by a neck with Magic Mission another length back in fourth. Final time was 1:48 1/5.
Smith said he was able to get a couple of breathers for Noches de Rosa, a 5-year-old Chilean-bred mare by Stagecraft who is trained by Richard Mandella. The winner carried 115 pounds, two less than high weight Megahertz.
"My whip came apart on me, but otherwise everything went as planned," Smith said. "I knew Mr. Mandella is smiling, that's what I was thinking, we were going so slow."
Smith dictated the pace in fractional calls of :24 4/5, :50 and 1:13.3 while Noches de Rosa outpaced Dancing and Glia. Smith roused her in the stretch after an opening mile in 1:37 and she finished well.
"(In the stretch) she just wasn't going to let them get by and was trying so hard," Smith said. "It's a great feeling when a horse gives you all that. It just makes my job that much easier."
Mandella admitted he was relieved as the race unfolded.
"I couldn't believe they let her get away like that," he said. "If you get to go a half-mile in 50, you've got to feel good. I was afraid the sirens would come on and they'd catch us for stealing."
Garden in the Rain, with Gary Stevens riding, and Megahertz, with Alex Solis aboard, both encountered traffic problems on the final turn at the 3/8 pole. Megahertz, in sixth, was in tight and steadied, but rallied four wide to get the first crack at the winner. Garden in the Rain, who settled on the rail from her inside post, was forced to swing wide on the turn and followed Megahertz in the stretch, outrunning her in the closing yards to gain second.
Mandella said Noches de Rosa would probably go in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Barbara (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita on April 19.
After five out-of-the-money performances since coming to the United States from Chile in August, Noches de Rosa has won two in a row. She won the Reloy at Santa Anita at 1 1/4 mile on Jan. 31. Overall, she's won seven of 18 starts with earnings of $239,573.
The winner paid $28, $12.40 and $4. Garden in the Rain returned $4.20 and $2.40. Megahertz paid $2.20. The $2 exacta was $109.60.