The Bobby Frankel-trained Megahertz took the overland route with jockey Alex Solis to win Sunday's $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) for older fillies and mares at Santa Anita Park.
The little 6-year-old chestnut mare, although last in the field of seven as they straightened for home, came thundering down the center of the lane, catching the ground-saving Katdogawn near the sixteenth pole and going on to a half-length win in a well-measured ride from Solis.
"It brings tears to my eyes to watch her run," said Frankel. "She's little and she just does things that amaze you all the time. It's just unbelievable. You watch them and they're 10 lengths in front of her and you think she's got no chance to catch up and here she comes."
Solis, the regular rider of Megahertz, had missed four of her last five races.
"I think she probably feels the same way as I do," he said. "I know her so well and I know what she likes."
The grade I winning Megahertz won last year's Santa Ana, but was disqualified and placed last, with this year's runner-up, Katdogawn, getting the victory.
It was the sixth Santa Ana victory for Frankel, who has done it with a different horse each time. Megahertz was favored in the race for the third straight year.
The final time was 1:47 4/5 for the 1 1/8-mile event on firm going.
Pacesetter Valentine Dancer, ridden by Jon Court, held on for third after setting moderate fractions of :24, :47 4/5 and 1:12 1/5. She fought on grimly in deep stretch while trying to hold off Katdogawn, who got through along the inside for Corey Nakatani, and Megahertz.
Owner Michael Bello of Newport Coast has been waiting all season for an opportunity to run his spitfire, but three previous turf stakes for the filly and mare handicap division had been switched to the dirt at Santa Anita because of wet course conditions. The English-bred daughter of Pivotal-Heavenly Ray (Rahy) won for the seventh time in 11 lifetime starts on her favorite grass surface.
Megahertz trailed throughout as Valentine Dancer led the way. Katdogawn, also well back in the pack, edged up on the inside in the stretch as Stupendous Miss increased the pressure on Valentine Dancer in upper stretch. At the quarter pole, Megahertz kicked into gear, swinging out for her run around her rivals. She refused to be denied under right-handed urging from Solis.
She won for the 11th time in 29 starts overall and has banked $1,571,594. Meghertz won the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) in 2003 and has several grade II wins to her credit. It was the first victory for Megahertz since since Santa Anita's Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) last April. Frankel said he is pointing the mare toward this year's Santa Barbara on April 17.
The 6-5 choice paid $4.60, $3.60 and $2.60. Katdogawn returned $7.20 and 44.20. Valentine Dancer was $3.80 to show.
Hoh Buzzard, Barancella, Stupendous Miss and Belle Ange completed the order of finish.
Between races, jockey Ray Sibille became the 56th recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The recently retired Sibille won 4,624 races in his Hall of Fame career. Former winner Gary Stevens presented the award to Sibille in a winners' circle ceremony. That prompted Sibille to quip, "I'm the only one to actually receive this award from George Woolf." Stevens played Woolf in the movie Seabiscuit
The ceremony featured several Hall of Famers and former Woolf Award winners.