Sweet August Moon took advantage of a hot pace to run down the odds-on pacesetter High Resolve, scoring her first graded stakes win in the $100,000 Las Flores Handicap (gr. III) April 5 at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Aaron Gryder, Sweet August Moon logged her third consecutive win while scoring by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Brian Koriner. Foxy Danseur headed the tiring High Resolve for second. The winning time in the 6 1/2-furlong Pro-Ride test for older fillies and mares was 1:15.21.
“She’s always been such a big filly and it looks like now that her ability is catching up to her size," Gryder said.
Two scratches in the Las Flores reduced the field to five. High Resolve, breaking from the rail as the 4-5 choice, got some early pace pressure from Coco Belle, who popped out of the gate to lead initially. But High Resolve, a speedy Northern California-based filly ridden by Russell Baze, was in full stride soon after the break to take the advantage by a length while clicking off rapid splits of :22.01 for the quarter mile and :44.85 for the half.
High Resolve continued to show the way into the homestretch, but Coco Belle kept the pressure on as Sweet August Moon made her bid on the outside. Past the eighth pole, Sweet August Moon edged past her rivals and prevailed under left-handed pressure from Gryder as High Resolve fought back. Foxy Danseur, with Joel Rosario aboard, rallied widest of all from fourth to get up for second in the final couple of strides. Coco Belle finished fourth. Petite Cherie trailed throughout.
Owned by Peter Parrella's Legacy Ranch and Shirley MacPherson, Sweet August Moon collected her fifth win in 11 lifetime starts and increased her earnings to $238,102 with her $60,000 winner's share of the purse. All of the 4-year-old filly's victories have come at Santa Anita.
In her last start, Sweet August Moon defeated Foxy Danseur in similar fashion by 1 1/2 lengths in the Honest Lady March 7. That was her only prior stakes victory.
"She’s matured and (is) really good right now," Koriner said. "This track helps, because off-the-pace horses have been having a little advantage, but I don’t know if today they did have any advantage. The track seemed fast today. When it gets hot, it gets fast."
Bred in Pennsylvania by Maple Leaf Farm, Sweet August Moon is a daughter of Malibu Moon --out of the Royal Academymare Silent Academy.
Sent off as the second choice, Sweet August Moon carried co-high weight of 118 pounds and paid $8.20, $4.20, and $2.20 while topping a $2 exacta worth $24. Foxy Danseur, trained by Christopher Paasch, returned $3.60 and $2.20. High Resolve, who has never finished out of the money in 11 starts while posting seven wins, was $2.10 to show.
High Resolve was making her first start for Greg Gilchrist since a front-running 2 1/4-length win in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park Jan. 24.
"I had a lot of respect for High Resolve," Gryder said. "She’s run well here and she was coming off a big race in Florida. It looked to me like she was the lone speed and I was hoping (Coco Belle) could put some pressure on her from the outside. It was just enough pressure and we were able to take advantage of it. Around the turn, I kept my filly off the rail because I thought she’d be a little more relaxed there. Once I got her outside turning for home, she really accelerated well.”
Ashley's Kitty and Starry Pursuit were scratched.