Vale Dori Wins Third Straight Grade 2 in Santa Maria

Vale Dori Wins Third Straight Grade 2 in Santa Maria
Photo: Benoit Photo
Vale Dori and Mike Smith take the Santa Maria

Vale Dori continued her dominance of the older female division in Southern California with her third straight grade 2 score Feb. 11 in the $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita ParkWatch Video

Following wins in the Dec. 3 Bayakoa Handicap (G2) and the Jan. 14 La Canada Stakes (G2), Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's daughter of Asiatic Boy again kicked clear in the stretch Saturday to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

After acting up in the gate and unseating jockey Mike Smith, Vale Dori raced close to early pacesetter Midnight Toast as she set fractions of :23.66 and :47.35 through a half-mile. Vale Dori assumed command by 1 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:11.68, was never seriously challenged in the stretch, and finished off the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:43.19.

In the absence of champions Songbird and Stellar Wind, who are just beginning their training toward 2017 campaigns, Vale Dori has done nothing but win.

"She's just gotten good," said Smith, who is also the regular rider on Songbird. "There's not a Songbird or Stellar Wind in there, so that certainly helps, but she's climbing the ladder. At some point she's going to have a chance at them."

Show Stealer, who also finished behind Vale Dori last time out in the La Canada, again was runner-up in the Santa Maria, 3 3/4 lengths clear of Autumn Flower, who finished third in the La Canada.

"She keeps beating the same group, so that's good," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "She's just steady and she's right there. The gate thing, I think she's very funny about her head. I think the gate guy might have touched her near her ear, and she will do that. You've got to be real careful with her."

Lady Tapit finished an even fourth, followed by Sheer Pleasure and Midnight Toast to complete the order of finish.

Bred in Argentina by Abolengo, Vale Dori now has a 7-3-1 record from 12 starts with earnings of $694,943. Her only losses since relocating to the United States from Dubai came to Stellar Wind and Beholder in the 2016 Zenyatta Stakes (G1), where she finished third, and in her North American debut in August at Del Mar.

"We're definitely looking at the Santa Margarita (G1) next," Baffert said. "That's the plan. Those South American horses, they love the mud. They like wet tracks. It's good to know, but she's been a joy to train. ... She's making money, we enjoy watching her run, and she tries hard every time."

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