Gary A. Tanaka's Golden Apples earned her second win in three North American starts as she accelerated through the lane to earn a three-quarter length victory over Dancingonice on the $250,000 Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Sunday.
Golden Apples initially refused to load in the gate, then trailed the field through the early going as Dancingonice set a sensible pace while alone on the lead under Tyler Baze. Dancingonice increased her lead through a :47.56 half-mile and three-quarters in 1:10.85 as Golden Apples remained in the back of the field of nine fillies and mares. Dancingonice's four-length lead diminished to a length in the stretch as La Ronge put in a bid under Gary Stevens, but Dancingonice repulsed the challenge before Golden Apples stormed by in deep stretch to earn the win. The winner completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.61 on firm turf.
"The only thing that made me a little nervous was that she didn't want to load today," said winning jockey Garrett Gomez. "That's kind of typical of the Europeans but she just hadn't pulled that since she's been over here. But she's been training super since she got back from Keeneland. I've worked her twice since she got back and she absolutely worked tremendously both times. I was very high on her going into this race, even though she was facing her elders for the first time (in the States), I thought she had the ability to go head-and-head with 'em. And today, she proved it."
In her first North American start, Golden Apples rallied to a one-length win over Affluent in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) before shipping to Keeneland to run second to that rival in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT). She earned her first career win against older horses this May, then ran third in the Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-II) against older horses two starts later. Golden Apples (Pivotal--Loon, by Kaldoun) earned $150,000 for the win, her third in seven career starts. James Egan and David Hanley bred her in Ireland.
"She is something else, I must say, to come from last to first," said winning trainer Ben Cecil. "I told Garrett (Gomez) today, let her come out of there, just let her get relaxed and let her make that one run like we did at Del Mar, and it worked perfectly. If she comes out good, the plan will be to go to the Matriarch (gr. IT, Nov. 25, Hollywood Park)."
Dancingonice held second, finishing 1 1/2 lengths ahead of betting favorite Janet. Tout Charmant finished a nose farther back, just ahead of La Ronge. Blue Moon, Al Desima, Cindy's Hero, and Catz completed the order of finish.
Golden Apples returned $7.80, $4.80, and $3.20 and topped a $1 exacta worth $73.50. Dancingonice paid $14.20 and $6.40. Janet was worth $3 to show. (Chart, Equibase