Seeking her first graded stakes win, Let Faith Arise put away pace rivals Fiftyshadesofhay and Iotapa in the stretch to win the $350,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) March 15 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Let Faith Arise, runner-up in both the La Canada (gr. II) and Santa Maria (gr. II) stakes to begin the year, prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths with Corey Nakatani aboard. It was Nakatani's fifth win in the Santa Margarita, but his first since 2000 with Riboletta.
Let Faith Arise, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old daughter of Kafwain, is a homebred for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. It was the first Santa Margarita win for the Hall of Fame conditioner.
Let Faith Arise, always prominent while racing between Fiftyshadesofhay and 7-5 favorite Iotapa, completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.70. Iotapa, who defeated Let Faith Arise by 1 3/4 lengths in winning the Santa Maria Feb. 15 in front-running fashion, held second by half a length with Stanwyck gaining the show spot over the late-running Spellbound.
Out of the graded stakes-placed El Corredor mare Babe Hall, Let Faith Arise has blossomed since being stretched out to two turns this year by Hollendorfer. The 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita was the longest of her career. She competed exclusively in Northern California sprints as a 3-year-old, the highlight of her campaign coming in a victory in the California Wine Stakes at Pleasanton last June.
"She's showed a few good races (going around two turns) and Jerry thought it may have been quick back into her most recent race, but she's been training well coming into this race and she only kept getting better," said Nakatani, who rode Let Faith Arise in both of her prior races this meet. "I'm just glad to be a part of it. She tries so hard every time and you know she'll give you her all."
Breaking alertly, she was outrun for the early lead by Fiftyshadesofhay along the inside, with Macha and Iotapa chasing the leaders. Macha dropped down to the inside to track the leaders as Iotapa moved up three wide in third for Joe Talamo. That trio raced in close contention through moderate quarter mile fractions of :23.45, :47.55, and 1:11.67.
"We didn't really expect to be on the front end, but since she broke well, Corey let her run and keep running," Hollendorfer said. "That was the right decision, obviously. It was pretty hard to take back when she got (to) the lead easy."
Let Faith Arise increased the pressure on Fiftyshadesofhay as they made their way past the three-eighths pole and Martin Garcia, aboard Fiftyshadesofhay, began to ask his charge for more. It was to no avail, however, as Let Faith Arise took a narrow advantage over Iotapa and those two edged away from the rest for the drive. Separated by a head at midstretch, Let Faith Arise proved best under strong right-handed urging from Nakatani and drew off late.
"It's good to win a grade I with her," Hollendorfer noted. "We'll regroup here and pick another race. It might be here or might be back east."
Iotapa, who was expected to set the pace, settled for second over Stanwyck, who stalked fairly close to the lead. Spellbound, allowed to trail the otherwise closely packed group into the far turn, did not have the fast pace to close into that she got in winning the La Canada Jan. 19. She loomed a threat for a time after making a sweeping move rounding the bend but flattened out to be fourth. Yahilwa, Fiftyshadesofhay, and Macha completed the order.
Let Faith Arise ran her career mark to 5-2-1 in 10 starts and bumped her earnings to $380,240 with the winner's prize of $210,000.
Tom Stull, owner of Tommy Town Thoroughbreds along with his wife Debi, was estatic over his first grade I win.
"I was emotional when they were coming down the stretch," he said. "The three of them were hooked up and you just knew something had to give. I thought (Iotapa) might keep going but (Let Faith Arise) just dug in and kept going."
Under equal weights of 118 pounds, she paid $10.60, $3.80, and $3.20 across the board as the third choice. Consistent Iotapa, with four wins and four seconds in nine lifetime starts, returned $3 and $2.60 while completing a $24.20 exacta. Jerry and Ann Moss' Stanwyck, most recently third in the Santa Maria, paid $3.80 to show.
Miss Serendipity, entered in the Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) on turf Sunday, was scratched.