Let Faith Arise had to dig deep to pull out the $100,000 Adoration Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) by a short neck as the 1-2 favorite May 18 at Santa Anita Park, getting the nod over stubborn pacesetter Yahilwa at the wire.
Winner of the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) in March, 4-year-old Let Faith Arise rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 11 at Oaklawn Park for Tom and Debi Stull and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, the Kentucky homebred daughter of Kafwain out of the graded stakes-placed El Corredor mare Babe Hall was timed in 1:43.41 for the 1 1/16-mile Adoration on a fast track. Now a graded III race, the Adoration was formerly the Marjorie L. Everett Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park the past two years and the Milady Handicap before that.
Since being stretched out to two turns by Hollendorfer in January, Let Faith Arise, racing in the silver, gold, and black colors of Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, has developed into one very tough cookie. She finished second by a neck in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) in her first route try, then was second again in the Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 15. The bay filly then captured the Santa Margarita by nearly two lengths in front-running style one month later. In the Apple Blossom, however, she came up empty after stalking eventual winner Close Hatches.
A field of nine older fillies and mare contested the Adoration, with 17-1 shot Yahilwa bounding away from the gate under Kent Desormeaux to dictate the pace through solid fractions of :23.28, :46.89, and 1:11.53.
Eblouissante, the star-crossed half sister of legendary Zenyatta, pressed the pacesetter on the outside for the opening half mile before giving way abruptly and being pulled out of the race by Gary Stevens.
Meanwhile, Let Faith Arise sat a perfect trip at the rail in third before angling out a bit on the turn and soon tackling Yahilwa, who had opened up a couple of lengths on her opponents rounding the final bend. Let Faith Arise seemed likely to sweep past the front-runner in the drive.
"Corey did the right thing when they pressed up the pace," Hollendorfer said. "Instead of going on and getting trapped on the inside, he stayed there and let them set the pace up and let her run when she was ready."
But Yahilwa was tough, battling back at the rail under some left-handed urging from Desormeaux after being headed at the furlong marker. She fought on even terms in an all-out effort until the final few strides but she could not keep off Let Faith Arise, who got up under some strong hand coaxing from a confident Nakatani.
"When the winner passed me, my filly came back and passed her again," Desormeaux said. "She fought tooth and nail, but they don't give them away, do they?"
Nakatani said he expected to race first or second but had to back off a bit when Yahilwa and Eblouissante shot out to the lead.
"It worked out well," he said. "She relaxed really well and she ran a great race."
Let Faith Arise ran her career earnings to $470,240 with her sixth win from 12 lifetime starts. The bay filly had put in four strong works over the Santa Anita main track following the Apple Blossom.
The winner carried top weight of 124 pounds and paid $3, $2.40, and $2.10. She keyed a $24 exacta with DP Racing's Yahilwa, who ran too good to lose for trainer Jim Cassidy while returning $9.80 and $6.80. Irish Presence, a 108-1 shot ridden by Fernando Perez, finished 8 3/4 lengths farther back in third, paying $12.
Warren's Veneda was fourth, followed by La Canada winner Spellbound, Legacy, Scarlet Strike, Champagneandcaviar, and Eblouissante. Floral Romance scratched.