Gomez Guides April Pride to First Graded Win

Gomez Guides April Pride to First Graded Win
Photo: Benoit
April Pride bounds home in the Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap.
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April Pride overcame her far outside post and some heavy traffic in the homestretch to post an impressive upset win in Oak Tree's $100,000 Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO), her American graded stakes debut for trainer James Cassidy Oct. 24 on the Santa Anita grass.

Garrett Gomez, riding April Pride for the first time in the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies, was able to maneuver to the inside soon after the break and the Great Britain-bred daughter of Falbrav chased the pace from mid-pack as Century Park was hustled to the early lead from her rail post by Tyler Baze.

Century Park set quick splits along the inside -- :23.25 for the quarter-mile and :46.28 for the half -- while getting strong pressure from Strawberry Tart. She continued to lead into the stretch after completing six furlongs in 1:09.97.

April Pride, toward the inside at odds of 7-1, was one of several horses closing in as the field rumbled down the lane. She worked her way between the retreating Strawberry Tart and outsider Point of Reference mid-stretch and quickly overtook Century Park for the lead, drawing away under vigorous urging to a 1 1/2-length win. The final time was 1:34.01 on a firm course.

"When we straightened out for home, we were going for a really tight hole and we actually had to slow down a bit before we went for it," Gomez said. "I actually think that helped her, because when I asked her she really accelerated, so much so that when we went through there, my boot slipped back in my right iron. That hole was tight and she went through there great. I think I worried about it more that she did.”

Century Park edged Starlarks, with Alex Solis aboard, for second by a neck. The 2-1 favorite Minute Limit finished fourth, three-quarters of a length farther back.

Third in Goodwood's Prestige Stakes (Eng-III) in her final European start for trainer Richard Hannon in August 2008, April Pride made her U.S. debut for Forging Oaks Farm in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with an 11th-place finish. Given a two-month freshening by Cassidy, the bay filly returned with back-to-back runner-up finishes on the Santa Anita lawn before winning the China Doll Stakes by two lengths in March.

She was off for 5 1/2 months after that, disappointing in her return with an eighth-place effort as the favorite in the Sandy Blue Handicap at Del Mar Aug. 21. In her most recent start, she ran third in an optional claiming event back at Oak Tree on Oct. 1. All of April Pride's American races have been at one mile on the turf.

“Garrett rode her great," Cassidy enthused. "The whole thing was the ride. It’s always important for a filly to get a graded stakes win. I’m very happy. She’s been unlucky in the past, so today she showed her stuff. I told Garrett he’d have to stay after her down the lane, and he did.”

April Pride's third win in 14 starts was worth $60,000 to owner James Peyton, boosting her overall earnings to $187,567.

Bred by Sir Eric Parker, April Pride is out of the Theatrical mare Hasta.

The winner carried 117 pounds and paid $17.80, $9 and $5 while topping an inside-outside exacta worth $180. Century Park was able to dictate the pace and nearly stole this one for trainer Bob Baffert, returning $13.20 and $6.80. The Irish-bred Starlarks was expected to be on the pace but instead rallied from far back for show and paid $4.20.

Minute Limit was followed by Acting Lady, Point of Reference, Mrs Kipling and Strawberry Tart. Air Fair, Malibu Win, and Pride Dancer scratched.

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