California-bred Lazy Slusan rallied gamely through the stretch to catch Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Spain in the final sixteenth-mile, winning Saturday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) by a half-length at Santa Anita.
With jockey David Flores in the irons, Lazy Slusan completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.59 on a fast track and returned $26.20, $9.80, and $7.40. 17-10 favorite Spain finished another half-length clear of Critikola and paid $4 and $3.40. Critkola was worth $6.20 to show. Second wagering choice Feverish finished fourth, a neck behind Critkola. Gourmet Girl, Lovellon, and Let's Cruise completed the order of finish.
"What a feeling," said Flores. "The main thing was to put her in the race. Then from there, I got lucky -- I got a perfect spot, I was in a perfect position and I just waited, was patient for the last three-eighths. At the eighth pole, the others, they didn't slow down at all. I just kept getting after her and when she saw those horses, she got game again. And man, she gave me what she had and got the job done."
Jockey Victor Espinoza had no excuses for Spain. "She ran great, she tried so hard," Espinoza said. "The last sixteenth of a mile she was trying so hard, she didn't want to get beat this time. Unfortunately it wasn't to be today."
Lazy Slusan (Slewvescent--Three Flights Up, by Topsider) is 6-year-old mare bred by the Robert H. Walter Family Trust and owned in part by trainer John K. Dolan. She earned $180,000 for the win, her 10th in 41 starts and first in a graded stakes. The Santa Margarita marks her second stakes win of the year, with her first coming in the restricted Work the Crowd Handicap on yielding turf at Golden Gate Fields two starts back. Subsequently she finished second to Jeweled Pirate in the Pro or Con Handicap on a firm turf course at Santa Anita. In her most recent start on the main track prior to Saturday, Lazy Slusan finished third – behind Feverish and Gourmet Girl – in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park in late December.
"This is the biggest win of my career," said Dolan. "What prompted me to run here was that on April 28, they have that Cal-bred race (B. Thoughtful Stakes at Hollywood Park at 1 1/16 miles on turf) and I'm just waiting on Cal-bred races. There was a big gap here, so I gave it a shot. I was hoping to get third in a Grade I, and if I go ahead and breed her, it will look good. I thought it would be like a six-horse field and I had a shot at it. Will I still look at the Cal-bred race? I don't know what I'm going to do now. I really wasn't expecting to win. I thought she'd run a good race. I'll have to think about it. This was almost as much fun as (Irisheyesareflying finishing fourth in) the Santa Anita Handicap. That was pretty exciting." (Chart, Equibase