Stonerside Stable's Tout Charmant earned her first victory since November of 2000, coming from just off the pace to win the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) by two lengths over Janet.
"That was the Tout Charmant we've come to know and love," said winning rider Chris McCarron.
After a successful 4-year-old campaign in which she won three of seven starts, including the Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) and WinStar Galaxy Stakes (gr. IIIT), Tout Charmant was held winless in three 2001 starts while finishing fourth or fifth in all three races. The San Gorgonio was make or break time for Tout Charmant, who would likely begin her broodmare career should she not run well Sunday.
"She had a breeding to Storm Cat this year, but the instructions (from owners Robert and Janice McNair of Stonerside) were that if she didn't run well today, to retire her and breed her," said winning trainer Ron McAnally. "But that if she runs well, then you can tell us what to do, or she can tell us both what to do."
In the race, the 6-year-old daughter of Slewvescent saved ground while a reserved fourth early on, moved up to challenge pacesetting favorite Dancingonice on the backstretch, then wrested a short lead from that rival at the top of the stretch before bounding away late to keep Janet safely at bay. On the firm turf, Tout Charmant completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.22.
"When we turned onto the backside, I had a chance to put her on the outside of those two fillies and when I did, wham, she just took off with me," said McCarron. "I thought, 'It's too early.' I mean she really accelerated at that point. It wasn't like (Dancingonice) just backed up to her and we took over; my mare took off. But it was of no consequence."
"We figured the race would be run that way. But like Chris (McCarron) said, she sort of took off down the backside without even asking her," McAnally said. "He pulled her out off the rail in the clear, and like he said, like a European horse if you put them in the clear, they want to take off. But she did it on her own. Once she got to the lead, she's game on the lead."
Janet made a wide move on the second turn and finished second, a length ahead of Vencera. Dancingonice, Alexine, Tropical Lady, Impeachable, and Built To Last.
The win took some of the sting out of the day for McAnally, who one race earlier watched his Early Flyer disappoint for the second straight race, this time as the 4-5 favorite in allowance company. Tout Charmant's win marked McAnally 100th stakes win at Santa Anita, a feat previously accomplished by only two other trainers.
The Robert H. Walter Family Trust bred tout Charmant in Kentucky. (Chart, Equibase