Undefeated Executiveprivilege stamped herself as the likely favorite for this year's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) with a smashing victory in the $250,000 Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Sept. 29 (VIDEO).
Winning for the fifth time in as many tries, Executiveprivilege made all the running in the Chandelier. She separated herself from her rivals at the quarter pole and blasted away in the stretch. Rafael Bejarano wrapped up on the powerfully built daughter of First Samurai in deep stretch as they coasted to an easy triumph by an official 6 1/4 lengths.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the field of eight, Executiveprivilege ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.95 on a hot day at Santa Anita. She was making her initial start around two turns for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert as well as racing on dirt for the first time.
"She's just a really good filly," said Baffert. "We just got to keep her healthy. That's the whole deal."
This year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies will be run at Santa Anita Nov. 2 over the same distance as the Chandelier. The race was a "Win & You're In" event, meaning Executiveprivilege earns an automatic berth with entry fees paid.
"She impressed me today," said Bejarano, who has ridden the filly in all of her races. "When I saw a lot of scratches in the race, especially the speed, I had no choice but to send her. She brought me to the lead easy and I was concerned a little bit, but after the first turn I knew I had so much horse. She was so relaxed. I think after this race she'll be ready for the Breeders' Cup. She's going to be tough."
Inaugurated in 1969 as the Oak Leaf Stakes by the Oak Tree Racing Association, the race underwent a name change this year. Baffert won the Oak Leaf seven times previously, most recently in 2007 with Cry and Catch Me.
Executiveprivilege, a $650,000 purchase and sale topper at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April sale of 2-year-olds in training, runs for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. The bay filly was bred in Kentucky and is out of the graded stakes-placed mare Refugee, by Unaccounted For. She was bred by William Betz, D.J. Stable,Dr. Charles Kidder, J. Betz, and Nancy Robenalt.
"If she breaks well going long, I said don't give her a lot to do. She's fast. She ran like she was (had been) working. She's very special," Baffert said. "You need a lot of horse and a little luck (to win the Juvenile Fillies). You need all that, but she's special. You could tell the way she sprinted for home she was in control so it worked out right."
Scarlet Strike ran on for second, with Miss Empire third.
Beholder, who lost by a nose to Executiveprivilege in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) Sept. 1, was scratched on the morning of the race. Trainer Richard Mandella said he was unhappy with the way the Spendthrift Farm filly was training at Santa Anita. Two other scratches, Renee's Queen and Contessa's Moment, reduced the Chandelier field to eight.
Executiveprivilege bobbled slightly at the start but showed speed from between horses to take the early lead from Miss Empire and Majestic Minister. On the lead for the first time in her career, she angled to the inside and carved a sensible pace while maintaining a half-length edge over Miss Empire. Florida invader Salamera drew closer on the far turn after Executiveprivilege turned in fractions were :23.91, :48.41, and 1:13.45.
But rounding the far turn, Executiveprivilege began to edge away from her challengers and she was in firm control at the head of the stretch when asked. She poured it on through the lane and was under a long hold late from Bejarano.
Scarlet Strike, an eye-catching maiden winner at Del Mar Sept. 2, closed from seventh for Joe Talamo to take second, 1 3/4 lengths clear of Miss Empire and Martin Pedroza.
Executiveprivilege, odds-on in all of her races since debuting against maidens at Betfair Hollywood Park June 28, chalked up her fourth stakes win. She previously captured the Landaluce at Hollywood followed by the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) and Debutante at Del Mar. She has now earned $540,000.
Bejarano rode Saturday after being dumped in a race at Santa Anita on opening day Sept. 28.
Baffert's previous Oak Leaf winners were Vivid Angel, 1997; Excellent Meeting, 1998; Chilukki, 1999; Notable Career, 2000; Composure, 2002; Diamond Omi, 2005; and Cry and Catch Me, 2007.
Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Executiveprivilege paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10. Scarlet Strike returned $4.20 and $3 while completing a $13.80 exacta. Miss Empire was $3.60 to show.