Returning to the dirt for trainer Bob Baffert, Fiftyshadesofhay shook loose of her rivals and romped to her first stakes victory in the $100,000 Santa Ysabel (gr. III) over a wet/fast track at Santa Anita Park Jan. 26 (VIDEO).
Prominent from the start under Rafael Bejarano while racing just off a fast pace set by Escape Act (:22.50, :46.26, 1:10.80), 6-1 shot Fiftyshadesofhay took advantage of speed-favoring conditions to tally by 5 3/4 lengths while running 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.89.
Just five 3-year-old fillies contested the Santa Ysabel after the scratch of recent impressive maiden winner Branding.
Heir Kitty, ridden by Garrett Gomez, finished second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of 3-2 choice Scarlet Strike, who trailed the field up the backstretch. After rallying into contention rounding the far turn for Joe Talamo, Scarlet Strike had little to offer in the lane as Fiftyshadesofhay pulled away for a convincing victory.
"The pace was fast but the way the track played today was really fast," Bejarano said of the sealed racing surface. "I was really comfortable with my horse, and when I saw (Escape Act) was done at the three-eighths pole I let my horse go and open up three or four lengths in the stretch because I knew they weren't going to catch me."
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Fiftyshadesofhay was coming off an eighth-place finish on the Santa Anita turf in the one-mile Blue Norther Stakes Jan. 1. The daughter of Pulpit broke her maiden in her previous start, a 1 1/16-mile special weight test on the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park Nov. 22.
WinStar Farm bred the winner in Kentucky. The bay filly, a $175,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2011, is out of Quiet Kim, a graded stakes-placed daughter of Pegram's classic winner Real Quiet
"I knew she'd run well the way the track is today, lots of speed," said Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer added that the grass race "was kind of disastrous" for Fiftyshadesofhay.
Fiftyshadesofhay improved her career mark to 2-1-1 in six starts with earnings of $106,490. She paid $14.40, $4.80, $2.40. Heir Kitty, who ran fifth in the Blue Norther last time for trainer Peter Miller, returned $3.40 and $2.20 while completing a $48 exacta. Scarlet Strike, finishing in the money for the fifth straight time in stakes events, paid $2.10. Switch to the Lead was next, while Escape Act was eased in the stretch.
"We were very high on her early in the year and it's taken her a while to come around," Baffert said. "But she ran like she's supposed to do. She didn't like the turf, so it was a good win.
"She has a high cruising speed. She's not going to kick on; she's not going to be quick enough for that, but she can go a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter. She can go really far. Today she got the trip."