Denied nine times previously in graded stakes company, Stormy Lucy found room along the inside under Rafael Bejarano for a breakthrough win in the $200,000 Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) March 16 on the turf at Santa Anita Park.
Sent off at 9-2 odds, the 5-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic appeared she might be bottled up in traffic in the stretch before an opening developed as pacesetter Nickels Wild came off the rail while dueling with 4-5 favorite Emollient. Bejarano guided Stormy Lucy to the gap, where they were able to get through past midstretch, and the sturdy bay cleared off to defeat the closing Emotional Kitten by 1 1/2 lengths.
The meet's leading rider, Bejarano was aboard Stormy Lucy for the first time while collecting his third victory in the past five renewals of the Santa Ana. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile journey on firm going was 1:47.11.
Frank Lucarelli trains Stormy Lucy for owner Erica Gaunt. The mare was bred in Kentucky by Mercedes Stable out of the Dixieland Band mare Here Comes Lucinda.
Lucarelli, who had been running Stormy Lucy at a mile in most of her recent races, credited the added distance and the ride by Bejarano for helping Stormy Lucy join the ranks of graded stakes winners.
A 35-year training veteran based in Washington and Northern California, Lucarelli also earned his first graded stakes victory at Santa Anita.
"All I told him (Bejarano) was, 'You do the riding, but she'll go anywhere.' She'll go inside, between 'em, around 'em, over 'em. She's an easy horse to get around there. You've just got to find the right spot.' "
In her most recent try at nine furlongs, Stormy Lucy was a tough-luck second when beaten by a nose by Customer Base in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita Dec. 29. In her only start since, she was a troubled fifth from off the pace in the one mile Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) Feb. 17.
Stormy Lucy has been training on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate Fields and was shipped south for the race after working three furlongs in :36 flat on the Tapeta March 12.
Emollient, a three-time grade I winner last year as a 3-year-old, was making her first start since finishing a close fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and appeared to hold a big class edge for her return. She was forwardly placed from the outset as Nickels Wild took over shortly after the start from Miss Serendipity.
Nickels Wild showed the way over Emollient and Miss Serendipity through measured fractions of :24.95, :49.73, and 1:12.11, and continued to lead into the stretch. But Emollient, perfectly positioned on the outside of the leader's flanks, appeared to ready to take over under Mike Smith.
Emollient did reach the front approaching midstretch as Nickels Wild gave way. But she failed to go on with it as Emotional Kitten on the outside and Stormy Lucy advanced into contention. Stormy Lucy got the lead, and under some late urging from Bejarano, drew away from Emotional Kitten and Victor Espinoza to win impressively.
Emotional Kitten finished one length in front of Miss Serendipity and Brice Blanc, who edged Emollient by a head for third, with Nickels Wild another head back in fifth. Topic and Floral Romance followed in the field of seven older fillies and mares.
Smith, discussing Emollient, noted, "It was her first race back. She was a little eager in the wrong place. Honestly, that's all it was. She still ran well and I think she got a lot out of it."
Winning for the first time since taking the minor Miss America Stakes last Oct. 19 at Golden Gate, Stormy Lucy improved her lifetime log to 6-2-3 in 21 starts with earnings of $392,200.
Stormy Lucy carried 118 pounds and paid $11, $4.80, and $3.40 as the third betting choice.
Emotional Kitten, perhaps a little short for her first start since winning the Mrs. Revere Sakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 16, was worth $4.20 and $3 in her return for trainer Wesley Ward. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred, who shared top weight of 123 pounds with Emollient, was part of an exacta that paid $41.80.
Miss Serendipity returned $5 to show.