The stalking favorite Leah's Secret pulled clear of her rivals in the final furlong to impressively win the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff (VIDEO), the last of four rich stakes races at Santa Anita Jan. 24, for her third consecutive stakes win.
Ridden by Eibar Coa, the the Florida-bred 6-year-old mare is now over the million-dollar mark in career earnings. She won by 2 1/4 lengths as the 13-10 favorite in the 12-horse field.
Todd Pletcher trains the dark bay daughter of Tiger Ridge owned by WinStar Farm. Leah's Secret, who shipped to Southern California from her Palm Meadows training base, is expected to go to Kentucky to be bred later this year. Assistant trainer Mike McCarthy said after the race that she may remain in California to run in the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 14.
Leah's Secret settled in sixth for the first half-mile as 19-1 shot Waveline sped to the early lead and set a quick pace for the 1 1/16-mile distance, carving fractions of :23.50, :47.50 and 1:11.64. Leah's Secret, tracking at the rail, angled out between horses on the final turn and bid alongside the leader in the upper stretch. They battled to the eighth pole, when Leah's Secret gained a slender advantage. She burst away from there under urging and won as much the best in a time of 1:42.58.
"She brought her ‘A’ game today," McCarthy said. "A mile and a sixteenth is probably as far as she wants to go. She had plenty left in the tank today. She’ll stick around here and possibly run one more time. The filly’s obviously gotten very good here the last few months. The plan was for her to be bred, but I’m not sure. I think they put their heads together and decided if she keeps on doing as well as she’s been doing to keep her around for a little while longer.”
Northern California-based Lady Railrider, who moved with the winner around the final turn but could not match strides through the lane under Frank Alvarado, took second by a half-length over the deep-closing Unforgotten and Shaun Bridgmohan. Waveline finished fourth.
Leah's Secret came into the Sunshine Millions Distaff, which carried a winner's purse of $275,000, with back-to-back grade II victories. She won the one-mile Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs Nov. 2 by a half-length and came back to capture Aqueduct's Top Flight Handicap, also at a mile, as the favorite Nov. 28. She posted her ninth career victory in 26 starts and boosted her bankroll to $1,140,805.
“She showed me last time out in New York that she was a really good horse," Coa said. "Today she placed herself in a very good position and at the quarter pole, I thought I was on the best horse. Today she had a little bit more left at the finish than she did last time.”
Bred by Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, the winner is out of Lady Cruella, by Capote. Leah's Secret has also won the Lexus Raven Run (gr. II) at Keeneland, the Chicago Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington Park, the Anne Arundel Stakes and the Lazer Show Handicap in her career. She was purchased by WinStar for $525,000 from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment to the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale. First Klass Stable previously owned her.
Leah's Secret paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.60, topping a $2 exacta worth $44.80. Lady Railrider, who had back-to-back wins for trainer Steve Specht, returned $9.20 and $6.20. Unforgotten was $3.40 to show.
Waveline was followed by Annabill, Amazing, Perfect Hostess, Dawn After Dawn, Eclatante, Bai and Bai and Tiz a Blend. Spenditallbaby was pulled up on the first turn and was taken from the course by van. Briecat was scratched.