Unzip Me dictated the pace en route to an easy win in the $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita April 11, earning her fourth consecutive win for trainer Marty Jones.
Grade II winner Gotta Have Her, the defending Las Cienegas winner making her first start since a runner-up finish against males in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 7, rallied mildly before finishing third as the even-money favorite.
A Harris Farms and Donald Valpredo-owned California homebred, Unzip Me posted her first graded stakes win in the about 6 1/2-furlong event, which she completed in an excellent time of 1:12.80 over firm going. Her last three victories in the current streak have come on the unique downhill course at Santa Anita in which she led at every call.
A 4-year-old daughter of City Zip out of the Arazi mare Escape With Me, Unzip Me was coming off a hard-fought head victory March 20 in the state-restricted Irish O'Brien Stakes.
“We were always pretty high on her," Jones said. "As soon as she got on the grass, even when we worked her on the grass, it was like, ‘Whoa, this filly’s different on the grass.’ I was real concerned about running her back. It was kind of a last-minute decision because that last race was real hard on her. But the last few days before entries (for the Las Cienegas), she just started acting like herself and going like herself again, so I decided we should go for it again.
"She just loves running down that hill so much, I said we better try and take advantage of this while we can.”
As she has in all of her starts during the winning streak, Unzip Me jumped to the early lead for jockey Joe Talamo and maintained her advantage over Czechers, who contested quick quarter-mile fractions of :22.56 and :45.24 coming down the hill.
Unzip Me shifted ground when she reached the synthetic portion of the course on the turn, but recovered well and opened up a commanding three-length lead by mid-stretch. The chestnut filly came home in control while under a strong hand ride.
Czechers, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, fought on through the lane after falling back and edged Gotta Have Her for second by a three-quarters of a length. Gotta Have Her drifted a bit in the stretch but finished willingly for Tyler Baze.
Also owned in partnership by Harris Farm trainer Per Antonsen, Unzip Me improved her career mark to 6-2-1 in 11 starts with earnings of $279,700 after collecting $60,000 for the Las Cienegas.
"She had her ears straight up the entire race today, nice and relaxed," Talamo said of the winner. "I knew Rafael was close because we were going so slow, so around the turn and I wanted to open up just a little to get some breathing room. I threw her a few crosses through the lane just to keep her focused. Her last few races have really been remarkable.”
Sent off as the second choice, Unzip Me carried 118 pounds and paid $9.60, $5.20, and $3. Czechers, coming off a runner-up finish in the Clockers' Corner Handicap over the course March 14 for trainer Mark Glatt, returned $5.80 and $3.20 while capping a $45.80 exacta. Gotta Have Her, who bobbled at the break and was at least four wide when rallying off the turn, paid $2.10 to show as the 123-pound top weight.
Annihilation closed from last to finish fourth. She was followed by Jehan, Burg Berg and Nadeshiko. Lemon Supreme and U R All That I Am were trainer scratches.