River's Prayer Takes Wing in Las Cienegas

River's Prayer Takes Wing in Las Cienegas
Photo: Benoit
River's Prayer and jockey Clinton Potts win the Las Cienegas Handicap, Sunday at Santa Anita.
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The speedy River's Prayer turned back favored Indian Flare in the stretch run to earn her first graded stakes win by a half-length in Sunday's $108,700 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) {VIDEO} for older fillies and mares on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita.

It was the fifth stakes win for the California-bred daughter of Devon Lane trained by part-owner Paula Capestro. After winning the St. Patrick's Day Irish O'Brien Stakes for Cal breds on the hillside course in her last start, River's Prayer is undefeated in three tries over the layout with regular jockey Clinton Potts showing the way.

Breaking from the inside post in the field of seven, River's Prayer was beaten out of the gate by Wild Storm and several others but she soon was in control coming down the hill while clicking off fast splits of :21 4/5 and :44 1/5. Wild Storm began to fall back as the field reached the top of the stretch, and Indian Flare, tucked in on the inside with David Flores aboard, moved to challenge when an opening at the rail presented itself. River's Prayer responded to urging mid-stretch and edged away from Indian Flare, who appeared hesitant to come through the hole. Indian Flare altered course to rally a second time on the outside of River's Prayer, but ran out of room while cutting into the lead with each stride.

"When she’s able to clear off, she relaxes really well," Potts said. "Coming to the dirt, I knew David was behind me to my inside and at that point, I’m going to do my job and that is try to keep (Flores) in tight as much as I can without fouling him. My filly gave everything she had and she got the job done.”

Northern California shipper Strong Faith finished fast to get third, a head behind the runner-up. The winning time for the about 6 1/2-furlong distance was 1:12 4/5 on firm going.

“She was well ridden and we have just enough tactical speed that it’s hard for us to lose a position in front," Capestro said. "The track was a little slower today, and I was quite impressed with the time, actually."

River's Prayer won for the sixth time in 13 lifetime starts and has now won three of four on the turf. Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm, the gray filly is out of Cozzy Flyer, by Cozzene. She earned $65,220 Sunday, increasing her bankroll to $457,253 for a partnership that includes Capestro, Bantry Farms and Martin Racing Stable.

"She’s just a running machine," Capestro said. "I think she really likes the turf. I know she can also win on the dirt, and I haven’t really made up my mind exactly which direction we’re going to go with her.”

"I fell in love with her last summer at Del Mar," noted new owner Bill Martin of Dallas, Texas. "It hasn't stopped yet."

River's Prayer carried 117 pounds to victory, one less than Indian Fare.

Sent off as the narrow second choice, she paid $5.80, $3.20 and $2.60. Juddmonte Farms' Indian Flare, favored at 13-10 off a stakes win on the hillside for trainer Bobby Frankel March 3, returned $2.60 and $2.20. Strong Faith, shortening up after a second-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Hillsboro in her last start March 24 at Bay Meadows, was $3.20 to show.

No Lullaby finished fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind Strong Faith. She was followed by Dancing Squall, the Chilean-bred Wild Storm and the Great Britain-bred Red Diadem.

(Chart, Equibase)

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