Century Park, the least regarded of three fillies entered by trainer Bob Baffert in the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) at odds of 24-1, made every pole a winning one thanks to a crafty ride by returning jockey Tyler Baze at Santa Anita Jan 11.
Baze picked up his first win since being sidelined with rib and shoulder injuries sustained in a single-horse spill at Hollywood Park Dec. 5. He had plenty of horse at the top of the lane after setting tepid fractions in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies. Century Park fanned wide leaving the final turn and opened a sizable lead in the stretch, holding on while drifting inward under strong handling during the final furlong.
The second-longest shot on the board held off favored Haka, who closed willingly at the rail for jockey Garrett Gomez, by a measured length in a time of 1:43.32 over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface.
Century Park inherited the lead from the maiden Lady Lumberjack as the nine fillies headed into the clubhouse turn and she established even splits of :24.47, :48.83, and 1:13.55 while remaining firmly in control to the quarter pole. Will O Way, ridden by Joel Rosario, appeared to be the main threat to the front-runner rounding the bend, but she had to settle for third. Instead, it was Haka that found the way through to charge from the inside. The runner-up had too much to do, though, to catch Century Park.
"It didn’t look like there was much speed in the race," Baze said. "Bob and Jimmy (assistant trainer Barnes) both had a lot of confidence in this filly. When Rafael (Bejarano, aboard Lady Lumberjack) took back off me a little bit, that made things easier. It’s nice to get my first win; it’s like getting the monkey off my back and it relieves the pressure”
Baffert's other entrants didn't fare very well. Toro Bonito, breaking from the far outside and wide early, finished seventh. Jemmealey ran last.
“She likes this surface better than the other two (fillies)," Baffert said of Century Park. "I thought, ‘She loves it so much, let’s try her.’ I expected her to be on the lead. That’s why I put Tyler on her. We wanted to run one-two-three, but at least we got a win out of it, anyhow.
"We knew it was a step up for her, but we took a chance. I thought Tyler was a good fit for her. He put her on the lead, put them all to sleep, and got the job done.”
A Florida homebred daughter of General Meeting--Ecclesiastes, by Saint Ballado, Donald R. Dizney's Century Park has raced on both turf and synthetic surfaces in her seven-race career. It took her five starts to break her maiden, which came at 1 1/16 miles on the Hollywood Park lawn Nov. 2.
In her first start against winners Nov. 28, Baffert moved Century Park into stakes company, where she faded to ninth of 12 after pressing the pace in Hollywood's one-mile Miesque (gr. IIIT).
Century Park owns a 2-2-1 lifetime mark with earnings of $109,360 after taking down the Santa Ysabel's winning share of $60,000. She lit the tote board with a winning payoff of $51.40, $21.20, and $12 while topping a $2 exacta with Claiborne Farm's Haka that returned $258.
Haka ($5.20, $4.40), who stalked the pace early for Gomez, went off as the narrow 3-1 choice over Lady Lumberjack after an eye-catching 5 1/2-length maiden win on Hollywood's Cushion Track Dec. 18 in her third start for trainer Christophe Clement.
Will O Way ($6.20), finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, was coming off a convincing win in the Corte Madera Stakes at Golden Gate Fields for trainer Vladimir Cerin.
Lady Lumberjack, who had been second twice in her only prior starts, both in maiden company, finished fourth. She was followed by, in order, Acting Lady, Dave's Revenge, Toro Bonito, Crazy Tricia, and Jemmealey.