In spite of being blocked on the final turn, Magical Fantasy scored an incredibly close victory in the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) over hard-luck Black Mamba, who lost this race by the barest of margins for the second straight year at Santa Anita April 18.
With Alex Solis aboard in the 1 1/4-mile grass test, Magical Fantasy was advancing mid-pack with three furlongs to run when she took a hard bump from a horse in front of her that was forced to hit the brakes in tight traffic. Magical Fantasy steadied at that point, but she regained her momentum to bid between rivals, overtaking Toque de Queda in deep stretch to get the lead.
Black Mamba, meanwhile, was at least seven paths wide leaving the final turn with Joel Rosario, but surged in the final furlong to reach even terms at the wire. After a lengthy review of the finish, the stewards posted the inside horse, Magical Fantasy, as the winner.
The final time was an impressive 1:59.83 on firm going.
Four-year-old Magical Fantasy, racing for the partnership of David Bienstock, Paul Mandabach, and Charles Winner, and trained by Paddy Gallagher, won for the first time since capturing the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) in her fourth American start at odds of 42-1 last August. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Diesis began her career in Great Britain and was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride racing surface March 14.
“I felt like (Black Mamba) had it right before (the wire), and then my filly came on," Gallagher said. "I would have taken a dead-heat . . . It doesn’t get much better than this.”
“She was very wide turning for home," said John Sadler, trainer of Black Mamba. "There was just no room for her to get through on the inside. At first I thought we got beat a nose, and then when I watched it (the replay), it was really close. She’s been a good horse for us, and she always runs well. You like to win, but . . . "
Toque de Queda, ridden by Victor Espinoza, looked like a winner mid-stretch, but the lukewarm 5-2 favorite settled for third, three-quarters of a length behind. The pacesetting Ainamaa finished fourth.
Tizfiz led the field out of the gate tracked by Step Softly, but after a slow opening quarter mile (:24.25), Ainamaa had pulled her way to the the front under Mike Smith and took the field into the stretch while setting realistic fractions of :48.22, 1:12.50, and 1:36.07. Toque de Queda, in her third U.S. start for trainer Bobby Frankel, was rated well in third along the inside until being angled out slightly by Victor Espinoza in the drive. She held the lead in the final furlong but could not shake Magical Fantasy, who was inching away late but was all out under strong right-handed urging to keep off the fast-closing Black Mamba.
“I had a perfect trip until we got to the three eighths pole," Solis said. "Espinoza came up inside on the rail, and I had to put the brakes on and I lost all my momentum. She got back into the race right away though, and we got the job done, but she should have won by two or three lengths.
"She’s a nice filly and getting back on the grass is better for her. I knew it was close and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if she had her nose down on the wire.”
Gallagher said he would consider the Gamely Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IT) at 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park May 30 for Magical Fantasy’s next race.
Grade I winner Black Mamba remains winless on the Santa Anita lawn while posting four seconds and three shows in eight tries over the course. She was making her first start since finishing fourth against males in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) Dec. 6. Black Mamba lost last year's Santa Barbara by a thin nose to Foxysox, who ran fifth this time.
Magical Fantasy earned $120,000 for her third lifetime win in 14 starts. This was her debut on Santa Anita's turf course, and the victory boosted her lifetime earnings to $452,431. The chestnut filly broke her maiden on the polytrack racing surface at England's Lingfield in November 2007.
Rodes S. Parrish and Charles Beach IV bred Magical Fantasy, who is out of the Easy Goer mare Kissing Gate.
Magical Fantasy, one of three horses sent off at odds of 3-1 in the evenly-matched field, returned $8, $4.60, and $3.40. New Zealand-bred Black Mamba, also at 3-1 in her return for Sadler, paid $4.20 and $3 while completing a $2 exacta worth $32.60. Toque de Queda, who ran third in the Beverly D (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in her American debut last summer, was $3 to show.
Ainamaa was three-quarters of a length back in fourth, followed by Foxysox, Persian Express, Tizfiz, and Step Softly. Grace Anatomy scratched.