Friendly Michelle wore down the leaders in a long stretch drive and posted a 1 ¼-length victory in the $82,500 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Sunday at Santa Anita Park.
Ridden by Tyler Baze at 116 pounds, Friendly Michelle covered 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17 1/5 and paid $3.40, $2.80 and $2.10. Bob Baffert is the trainer for Ed Friendly of Rancho Santa Fe. It was the fifth stakes win of the meeting for Baffert, tying him with Bobby Frankel for most stakes wins at the 64-day-old meet. Baffert also ranks fifth all-time in Santa Anita stakes victories with 77.
Friendly Michelle, third in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) last month, settled into fourth place early, as Very Vegas and Allswellthatnswell dueled through a half-mile in :44 3/5. The winner was sent up four-wide into the stretch and gradually reeled in Very Vegas, Allswellthatnswell and Lyin Goddess.
"She didn't like the dirt in her face, that's why I had to go four-wide," said Baze, third in the standings with 58 wins. "She did everything I wanted when I asked.
"I knew I had the best horse going in. I just kept her mind on her business down the lane. I think this filly can go two turns in the future."
A Kentucky-bred by 1999 champion sprinter Artax, Friendly Michelle has three wins from five starts and earnings of $142,230.Lyin Goddess, David Flores aboard at 114 pounds, finished second at 13-1 odds and paid $6.80 and $2.10. Very Vegas, Mick Ruis riding at 118 pounds, finished third and paid $2.10 to show. Allswellthatnswell and Mazella rounded out the field of five.
Baffert said Friendly Michelle is still learning.
"She's still immature and she's big," he said. "We had troubles with her shins last summer and she's just coming around now so we're just taking our time with her. Her next race will probably be long somewhere."
In a companion feature, Cayoke wore down Grandiser and then held off a flying Just Wonder for a neck victory in the $75,520 El Cielo Handicap for downhill turf specialists.
Cayoke, also ridden by Baze for owner Michael House and trainer Jeff Mullins, ran about 6 ½ furlongs in 1:11 3/5 and paid $3.60. It was the 11th win from 33 starts for the 7-year-old French-bred and his second from seven starts in the United States. The $43,800 winner's share increased his earnings to $365,749.