Trainer Bob Baffert moved a step closer to his Santa Anita record for stakes victories Saturday when overwhelming favorite Behaving Badly cruised home in the $107,000 Las Flores Handicap (gr. III) over five overmatched fillies and mares.
With Victor Espinoza sitting virtually still in the saddle, California's premier female sprinter breezed to a 4 ¾-length score over Awesome Lady while covering six furlongs in 1:09.09.
Baffert gained his tenth stakes victory of the 45-day-old race meet. With 41 days remaining, the 53-year-old trainer has dead aim on the record of 16 stakes wins he set seven years ago.
They should all be so easy as the Las Flores, in which Behaving Badly caused a minus show pool of $90,498. There was $545,016 wagered to show on the race with $517,708 placed on the 1-5 favorite.
Another odds-on favorite, 7-10 choice Moscow Burning, closed strongly to take the day's companion feature, the $108,700 Pro or Con Handicap at one-mile on turf, by 1 ¼ lengths over pacesetter Alphabet Kisses. The winning time in the stakes event for California-bred fillies and mares was 1:33.40.
Los Flores winner Behaving Badly paid $2.40, $2.20, and $2.10. Awesome Lady, the 20-1 runner-up who finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of Spirit to Spare, returned $5.60 and $2.10. Spirit to Spare was $2.10 to show.
"That was easy," Espinoza said afterward. "She was just cruising around there. She tries hard, this old mare, and I didn't want to knock her out."
Commented Baffert, "We like to win like that."
The $250,000-added Humana Distaff (gr. I) at seven furlongs May 6 at Churchill Downs is probably on Behaving Badly's dance card, Baffert said.
The victory, the sixth in eight starts for the 5-year-old New York-bred mare by Pioneering
, followed a 4 ¼-length triumph in the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) Jan. 29. Behaving Badly earned $64,200 for owners Hal and Patti Earnhardt to elevate her career total to $411,400.
David Flores boldly rallied Moscow Burning from sixth in the Pro or Con field of seven to overtake Alphabet Kisses inside the sixteenth pole. The latter finished 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Unusual Spring in third. Memorette was a late scratch.
A 6-year-old mare with an affinity for Santa Anita's grass layout, Moscow Burning's win was her sixth in nine starts over the course for Bullseye Racing LLC. The millionaire daughter of Moscow Ballet improved her career record to 11-5-2 in 26 races. The winning purse of $65,220 boosted her bankroll to $1,182,755.
"She shows up every time," said winning trainer James Cassidy. "I was impressed again. It's always nerve-wracking, even at short odds."
The mutuels on Moscow Burning were $3.40, $2.40, and $2.10. Alphabet Kisses, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, paid $3.60 and $2.40, with Unusual Spring paying $2.20 to show.