Front-running Iotapa, bouncing back from disappointing effort at Churchill Downs, left the favorites behind with a 10 1/4-length romp in the $300,000 Vanity Stakes (gr. I) June 14 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Joe Talamo drove the 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex to an overwhelming triumph for Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler. It was the rider's second grade I win in a row after guiding favored Obviously to victory in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) a race earlier.
Grace Hall, who did all she could to stay with the winne but gave way coming out of the far turn, was a distant second, with Scherzinger third. Favored Let Faith Arise finished fourth. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile distance was 1:47.64.
The Vanity, a race Zenyatta won three consecutive years (2008-10), was conducted at Santa Anita for the first time. It had been a fixture at Hollywood Park since inaugurated in 1940.
Claimed out of her debut maiden race for $50,000 at Hollywood in June 2012, Iotapa earned her first grade I win while providing Sadler with his second triumph in the Vanity following Victory Encounter in 2004. Bred in Kentucky by Gem Inc., Steven Bajer, and Robin O'Hara, the dark bay or brown filly is out of the winning El Corredor mare Concinnous. She began her career racing for her breeders and trainer Marty Jones.
Iotapa was sixth in the Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 3 and was given a brief break by Sadler after sustaining a minor hoof injury in the race. She returned to the worktab May 20 at Santa Anita.
"She didn't like the trip, the track or the flying," co-owner Kosta Hronis said of the Humana Distaff. "We were very happy when she got back here, because she was so relaxed. A lot of times, when you travel and don't run well, you have to take a break. When she had her first work back here though (a half mile in 47.60 May 20), we knew she was fine."
Two scratches left six older fillies and mares to contest the Vanity, with Santa Margarita (gr. I) winner Let Faith Arise made the slight 8-5 choice over Eastern invader Grace Hall, at 9-5.
Leaving from the rail, Iotapa was off a bit slowly but maintained her position along the inside as the Sadler-trained Magic Union and Grace Hall vied for the lead. Iotapa came through to get the lead heading into the clubhouse turn and set a pressured pace along the inside as Grace Hall rated just off her and Scherzinger stalked them on the outside. There was no change in that order as Iotapa took them along through even fractions of :22.76, :46.56, and 1:10.52.
Rounding the far turn, Iotapa increased her advantage to two lengths over Grace Hall, who was hard-pressed to keep up for Joel Rosario, with Scherzinger and Elvis Trujillo also losing ground.
Iotapa opened up by three lengths and there were no threats in the homestretch as Let Faith Arise mustered a minor bid from near the rear of the pack. Kept to a drive by Talamo, Iotapa was in complete control as she increased her advantage all the way to the wire.
"John told me just to send her because we didn't have much choice once we drew the rail," said Talamo, who previously won the Vanity in 2007 aboard Nashoba's Key. "The fractions weren't too fast for her so she was able to gain a breather at one point and it was amazing the way she kicked away like she did.
"I've won two grade I's on the same day before," Talamo added. "It was on seven, seven, of seven (July 7, 2007) and I was 17 years old. I was an apprentice still, before I was with Scotty McClellan (agent.) I won the Vanity with Nashoba's Key and I won the Triple Bend (gr. I) with Bilo. It was a great day. I didn't think it would take me eight more years to do it again!"
Grace Hall was second by 1 3/4 lengths over Scherzinger, with Let Faith Arise, toting top weight of 124 pounds, another 1 3/4 lengths farther back. She was followed home by Magic Union and Yahilwa.
Iotapa won the Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 15 before being upended as the 7-5 choice by Let Faith Arise in the Santa Margarita by nearly two lengths. The consistent filly improved her career mark to 5-4-1 in 11 races with earnings of $616,796.
Sadler said Iotapa "didn't really get a good trip that day (in the Santa Margarita) and the other filly (Let Faith Arise) got the trip on her, but today, the trip was ours."
Carrying 119 pounds, Iotapa paid $11.20, $5, and $3.20 while keying a $36 exacta. Grace Hall, who returned from a 13-month layoff with a second-place finish in the Ruffian Stakes (gr. II) May 11 at Belmont Park, returned $3.80 and $2.80 in her second start back for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Santa Monica Stakes (gr. II) winner Scherzinger, making her first start around two turns for Hall of Fame conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer, paid $3.40 to show.
"The winner ran an amazing race," Rosario said after Grace Hall's finish. "I thought I had her, but she kept going."
Irish Presence and Unusual Way scratched.