Bottled up in the homestretch, favored Jibboom got free with less than a furlong to run and collared Christiana's Heat in the final strides to win the $100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by a half-length on the Santa Anita hillside turf course Jan. 3.
Juddmonte Farms' versatile 5-year-old Mizzen Mast mare was closed off briefly behind a tepid pace when jockey Garrett Gomez attempted to rally Jibboom between horses in upper stretch. Christiana's Heat, closing on the outside, angled in, though, while challenging for the lead to shut off that opening in what appeared to be the winning move by jockey Michael Baze.
But Jibboom came off heels and waited for room to her outside, patiently overtaking Christiana's Heat with a sharp turn of foot as they closed in on the wire. The stalker Lethal Heat, blocked on the rail in the charge for home, angled three wide in deep stretch and finished willingly, but had to settle for third for jockey Alex Solis. They nosed out the pacesetter La Tee for the show spot, one length behind the 17-10 choice Jibboom.
The final time for the about 6 1/2-furlong event for older fillies and mares was 1:13.21.
"It took me a while, but I had to ease my way out slowly," Gomez said. "I wanted to split (Christiana’s Heat) and (La Tee) much earlier, but (Christiana's Heat) came down and tightened it up, so it took me about an eighth of a mile to get out.”
The striking gray Jibboom, who is out of Palisade, by Gone West, won for the fourth time in just nine starts and boosted her earnings to $337,600. She has won twice sprinting on the turf, once routing on the turf, and once more sprinting on Polytrack. That victory came in the Raven Run (gr. II) at Keeneland in October 2007, her only previous graded win.
Jibboom was transferred to the West Coast after a seventh-place finish in Keeneland's Spinster (gr. I) Oct. 5. She endorsed that move in her subsequent start, which came at Hollywood Park Nov. 2 in a one-length triumph over second-level allowance foes going 1 1/16 miles on the grass. She had been working impressively for trainer Bobby Frankel on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track since that victory.
The veteran Frankel took his his third Monrovia, but his first since Aberuschka in 1988. This was Frankel's third stakes win at the meet, which began Dec. 26, and his 904th victory at Santa Anita. He is the track's all-time leader among conditioners.
“It looked like she might be beat," said assistant trainer Humberto Ascanio. "I don’t how this guy (Garrett Gomez) found his way through. She was much the best, I guess. She’s a nice filly. We might stretch her out (next).”
La Tee, who took a lot of late action to go off as the second favorite at odds of 7-2, carved fractions of :22.50 and :44.93 and had the field stacked up behind her in upper stretch.
Jibboom paid $5.40, $3.40 and $2.60. Christiana's Heat, making her graded stakes debut for trainer Steve Knapp, returned $12.40 and $6.20 in a game effort. The $2 exacta paid $91.60. Unlucky Lethal Heat, a grade II winner making her first start since finishing third in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) in August, was $3.40 to show.
La Tee was followed by That's Hot, Royal Taat, 2007 Monrovia winner Society Hostess, Ransom Captive, Porto Marmay. Trouble Maker and Contentious. Eletro Nuclear scratched.