Stronach Stables' homebred Citronnade was left alone on an easy lead and spurted away from her rivals in the stretch to win the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares by three lengths Sunday on the Santa Anita Park turf course.
The victory was the seventh in the San Gorgonio for the red-hot Bobby Frankel, who is dominating the stakes action during the early portion of the winter meet and is winning at a 40% clip (six-for-15) overall. Since Frankel moved Citronnade from dirt to turf last fall, she has won three of four starts, all stakes. Sunday's win was her first in a graded stakes, however.
Journeyman jockey David Flores gave Citronnade a gem of a ride for his fourth stakes victory at the stand. Taking advantage of a complete lack of speed in the seven horse line-up, he sped Citronnade to the lead from her rail starting slot before settling.
They established modest fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:10 2/5 along the inside while maintaining a comfortable advantage over Strong Faith and Ready to Please. Flores asked the 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly for more as they rounded the turn for home, and she edged away at the top of the lane, opening up by a couple of lengths approaching the eighth pole. Citonnade only widened her advantage from there.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:46 4/5 on a firm course.
"She disappointed me on the dirt, so I said she’s got to be a grass runner," said Frankel, who picked up his fourth stakes win at the meet. "David rode a very good race. I think she’s going to be a very good filly as we go down the road.”
Frankel, with 857 career victories at Santa Anita (excluding Oak Tree), is closing in on Charlie Whittingham's record of 869 wins. With 124 stakes victories, he's second to Whittingham's 204 as well.
Flores said he guessed correctly that his rivals wouldn't put much pressure on Citronnade.
“She’s won on the lead before, and I was able to get a good position today," Flores said. "Down the backside, she seemed very confident and I was able to take my time. When we got to the three-eighths (pole), I wasn’t going to wait for anybody. I just let her roll, and she ran a great race.”
Rahy's Appeal, given a ground-saving ride by Aaron Gryder, found some running room in the stretch to take second by three-quarters of a length over the 6-5 choice Three Degrees, who nipped Grande Melody by a head for for third. While competing in top company throughout her career, the Irish-bred 5-year-old mare Three Degrees has not won in nine tries since taking the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Hollywood Park turf in June 2005.
Coming off a three-quarters of a length victory in the nine-furlong Skirball Stakes on Hollywood Park's grass course Nov. 12, Citronnade was making her debut at Santa Anita. She carried 115 pounds, five less than the top-weighted Beautyandthebeast, who was not a factor.
Lifetime, the bay filly has recorded five wins and two seconds in eight starts with earnings of $252,800. Her only off-the-board performance came in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland Oct. 14.
Frank Stronach's Adena Springs bred Citronnade, who is out of the Lord At War mare Primarily, in Kentucky.
Sent off as the third choice, Citronnade paid $11.20, $7.20, and $4.20, topping a $123.20 exacta with the outsider Rahy's Appeal, who returned $11.60 and $7. Three Degrees, with regular rider Alex Solis in the irons, was $2.40 to show.
The Irish-bred Grande Melody, who won the Dahlia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Dec. 1 and went off as the 4-1 second choice, was followed by British-bred Beautyandthebeast, Strong Faith, and Ready to Please.