As dominant as she was in winning the La Brea (gr. I) in stakes record-time one month ago, Switch looked like a world-beater as she trounced her rivals in the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) Jan. 30 at cloudy Santa Anita Park.
Switch, the heavy choice in the seven-furlong Santa Monica, stalked the pace while racing three wide and took command leaving the quarter pole. She cruised to victory by about five lengths under Joel Rosario, who cocked his whip once in the lane but didn't use it.
The final time was 1:20.70 over a fast track that had received some rain earlier in the day, slightly off the 1:20.33 she registered when winning the Dec. 26 La Brea.
The 4-year-old Calumet Farm-bred daughter of Quiet American now owns back-to-back grade I wins for her owner, Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable.
Winning trainer John Sadler said he plans to stretch Switch out once again in the near future and is looking at the Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes (gr. I) March 12 and Oaklawn Park's April 15 Apple Blossom Stakes (gr. I) down the road.
"I thought she had a chance to be the leader of the division this year with Zenyatta going home (to be bred in Kentucky)," Sadler told HRTV afterward. "I think Switch is very, very good, as good as anything out there, and I want to thank David Ingordo for picking her out as a yearling."
Gilded Gem ran second with Sweet August Moon third in a field reduced to six by a pair of early scratches.
Pica Slew, making her first start since Saratoga's Test Stakes (gr. I) last August for new trainer John Shireffs, took the early lead from Quisisana along the inside and set a sharp early pace (:22.42, :45.00) while pressured all the way into the turn. Switch, breaking from the far outside, was never far away in third while holding her position on the outside of Quisisana.
Switch was full of run and seemed well poised to take the lead for Rosario rounding the turn. She did so effortlessly and opened up a clear advantage in upper stretch as Pica Slew gave way and Mother Ruth and Gilded Gem, the one-two finishers in the Kalookan Queen Handicap earlier this month, took up the chase. They were never going to get to the winner, however, who drew clear under a hand ride and came home under a long hold from Rosario.
“I didn’t think it would set up that easy," Rosario said. "She’s a nice horse, and she’s improving more and more every day."
Gilded Gem, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was a clear second by 2 1/4 lengths over Sweet August Moon, who rallied belatedly for Garrett Gomez to overtake the fading Mother Ruth by a neck. Mother Ruth was followed by Quisisana and Pica Slew.
A grade II winner last year, Switch kept strong company late in the season. She posted runner-up finishes to Zenyatta by a half-length in Oak Tree's 1 1/16-mile Lady's Secret Stakes (gr. I) at Hollywood Park, and to Dubai Majesty in the seven-furlong Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. I). Those efforts set her up nicely for a return against 3-year-olds in the La Brea, which she won by four lengths.
The Santa Monica victory, worth $150,000, is her fifth in 12 starts and boosted her career bankroll to $782,600.
"She’s kind of a late-developing filly," said Sadler, who said he plans to race Switch six or seven times this year. "We kind of thought early on last year that she would improve with age and she’s showing that right now. She’s got a big frame on her and a big stride and she tries every time, so we’re going to see what’s out there for her and take it one step at a time."
The bay filly, a $150,000 Keeneland September yearling buy in 2008, is out of the Nicholas mare Antoniette, a grade III winner.
The 3-10 pick carried high weight of 123 pounds and paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Gilded Gem, from the Bob Baffert barn for Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds and Serengeti Stable, returned $4.80 and $3.40 and completed a $12.20 exacta. Multiple graded winner Sweet August Moon, whose connections indicated before the race that she may be retired and bred this spring, paid $4 to show in perhaps her final race.
Scratched were Mona de Momma and Pinkarella.