Bauble Queen helped jockey Garrett Gomez celebrate his 40th birthday in style with the best effort of her career to win the $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf Jan. 1 (VIDEO).
With Gomez at the controls, Bauble Queen rallied from well off the pace to nab pacesetter Turning Top approaching the wire by a half-length. Miss Mittagong finished another half-length farther back in third. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile test of older fillies and mares, Bauble Queen's first try at the distance, was 1:48.22 over firm ground.
Gomez has consecutive wins in the Frankel, named for the Hall of Fame trainer who died of lymphoma in November 2009, after winning last year's race with Spring Style. The jockey won the Frankel (formerly the San Gorgonio) for the fourth time in his career.
Gomez said he wasn't seriously concerned about being behind horses in spite of a slow pace.
"I was sitting in behind them pretty easily the whole way," he said. "It was just a matter of if my filly would lengthen at all when we turned for home. As it worked out, it was in our best interest. My filly liked the mile-and-one-eighth for the first time and was able to run them down."
Bauble Queen, a lightly raced 4-year-old daughter of Arch out of the Storm Cat mare Muneefa, earned her first stakes win for Joe Masino's Class Racing Stable and trainer Eric Kruljac. The filly, bred in Kentucky by Payson Stud, won for the third time in eight lifetime starts.
An evenly matched field of six contested the Frankel, with Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) winner City to City the 9-5 favorite for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. City to City carried top weight of 123 pounds.
Bauble Queen, breaking from the rail, was well back in fifth until launching her bid in the stretch. Turning Top, ridden by David Flores, went to the front shortly after the start and set a deliberate pace over Miss Mittagong and Joel Rosario. Fractions for the opening six furlongs were :24.58, :49.27, and 1:12.78.
When Turning Top successfully put her rivals to sleep, Flores went for the theft leaving the far turn and was in command by three lengths at mid-stretch. However, Bauble Queen, charging down the middle of the track with Miss Mittagong, overtook the weakening Turning Top and proved best in the shadow of the wire.
In spite of the pace scenario, Kruljac said he wanted Bauble Queen to relax early because she can be "on the excitable side."
"We kind of expected a slow pace when you looked at the past performances of the horses in the race," Kruljac said. "You hate to change her running style, ‘cause down the road, we’ll get into some races where we have a little more pace.”
Irish-bred Turning Top held on for second over Miss Mittagong, who finished well from between horses after stalking the leader throughout.
Bauble Queen, a $130,000 Keeneland yearling in September 2009, was coming off a third-place finish in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) over Hollywood's Cushion Track Dec. 4.
But she had shown a fondness for the Santa Anita turf in her race prior to that, a fast-closing third in the Harold C. Ramser Stakes (gr. IIIT) against 3-year-old fillies Oct. 16. She has not been worse than third in four grass starts, including two victories.
The winner's share of $90,000 boosted Bauble Queen's career bankroll to $218,257.
Sent off as the second choice, Bauble Queen carried 118 pounds and paid $8.80, $4.80, $3.60. Turning Top returned $5.60 and $4 and completed a $44.60 exacta. Miss Mittagong, attempting to give trainer Ben Cecil consecutive wins in the Frankel, paid $3.80 to show.