Miss Match ran down a weary Switch in the final couple of strides to register a 45-1 upset by a head in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita March 12 (VIDEO).
The result, however, became secondary as the multiple grade II-winning filly Always a Princess fell near the wire. Always a Princess set a rapid pace in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita and appeared exhausted in deep stretch after battling with Switch. She took a bad step, was pulled up and fell approaching the finish.
Always a Princess was able to regain her feet to the applause of the crowd at Santa Anita and was removed from the course by ambulance.
“It’s her (left front) ankle, but she’ll be all right," trainer Bob Baffert said later. "She ran so hard, I think she was just exhausted and went to lay down, you know. She took care of herself. It (ankle) didn’t go down. It probably has a little crack in it. It’s probably condylar or something like that. I feel a lot better about it.”
Garrett Gomez rode the Argentina-bred Miss Match to victory for trainer Neil Drysdale and owner Matthew Cloros. The 6-year-old Indygo Shiner mare posted her first North American stakes win. She captured the Argentine Oaks (Arg-I) in 2008.
This was the first victory in the Santa Margarita for the Hall of Fame conditioner, who is now two-for-two with Miss Matched since he took over training the mare this year from Michael Matz. Miss Match won a one-mile allowance race over the Tapeta synthetic surface at Golden Gate Fields by 1 1/2 lengths Jan. 23.
“We were just hoping that they’d go fast enough up front and she would come running," Drysdale said. "That’s her style, so we weren’t going to change her style of racing. It played out well apart from that poor filly (Always a Princess) getting injured.”
Gomez won the Santa Margarita for the third time in the past four years. His prior wins came with Nashoba's Key in 2008 and Life Is Sweet in 2009. Zenyatta won the race last year.
Le Quebrada bred the winner. The dark bay/brown mare is out of the Southern Halo mare Miss Simpatia.
Always a Princess, ridden by Martin Garcia, took command early with 9-10 choice Switch chasing in second. The pace was swift -- :23.38 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.39 for the half and 1:09.53 for six furlongs. By then, Switch, with Joel Rosario aboard, had pulled to within a half-length of the leader and those two fought it out into the lane until Switch took control approaching mid-stretch.
Miss Match raced off the rail in third for a half-mile before falling back between rivals. Gomez angled her out for the drive, however, and she rallied powerfully under left-handed urging to get up in time over the late-drifting Switch. The runner-up finished a half-length in front of Vision in Gold, who came home willingly for Rafael Bejarano.
"I knew she would stay, I just didn’t know if I could get her accelerated enough to pick her back up," Gomez said. "She wasn’t traveling all that great in the middle of the turn. When I first got to the quarter-pole I asked her to pick it up and she did a little bit at a time. As I moved her out and decided to move back in, it was like a whole new horse just jumped right in the bridle. She had this win attitude where she knew what she wanted and she went after it. She came home very well for us.”
Carrying 118 pounds, Miss Match paid a stakes-record $92.40, $14.60 and $6 for the win and topped a $199.80 exacta as the second-longest shot on the board. Switch, who was looking for her third consecutive grade I win of the meet for trainer John Sadler, returned $2.60 and $2.40. Vision in Gold, winner of the Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) in her last start for trainer Ron Ellis, was $3.60 to show.
Rosario noted that Switch was making her first try at nine furlongs.
“We had a good trip," Rosario said. "She just got a little tired in the lane. I’m not disappointed. It’s her first time at a mile and an eighth and she gave me everything she had. She came back good and that’s the main thing.”
MIss Match earned $180,000 for the win, her sixth in 20 lifetime starts, and extended her earnings to $551,614.
Second choice St Trinians failed to fire and finished fourth, followed by Hemera. Party With Brando scratched.