Awesome Baby splashes home to win the Santa Ysabel.

Awesome Baby splashes home to win the Santa Ysabel.

Benoit Photo

Awesome Baby Splashes to Santa Ysabel Tally

Kaleem Shah's 3-year-old filly dominates on a wet fast track at Santa Anita March 1.

Awesome Baby earned her second straight graded stakes win with a front-running score in the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) March 1 at rain-soaked Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).

The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies was something of a tag-team match between meet-leading trainers Jerry Hollendorfer and Bob Baffert. Three scratches due to the sloppy conditions reduced the field to five, with the Hall of Fame conditioners starting two apiece.

Baffert, who won this round as well as two other races on the day, took a three-win advantage over his rival, 25-22.

Ridden by Mike Smith for owner Kaleem Shah, Awesome Baby was timed in a swift 1:41.58 on a wet fast track, finishing 2 3/4 lengths clear of the Hollendorfer-trained Artemis, who edged 3-2 favorite Swiss Lake Yodeler for second by half a length.

"She's been working really well and we've been pointing her for this race," Baffert said. "I was a little bit worried about the off track, but she was very professional today and we were hoping she would run this well. Mike did a great job of keeping her on the lead."

Awesome Baby was coming off a front-running half-length tally in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 4, and was trying two turns for the first time since finishing a distant fifth in the Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) in her previous race last Sept. 28.

"The game plan was to break and get a clear lead so we could give her a chance to take a breather. We weren't sure that she would go long; she didn't at 2," Smith noted.

Awesome Baby, sent off as the 2-1 second choice, bounded immediately to the front. She seemed to be making easy work of it as she led Swiss Lake Yodeler and Artemis comfortably off the rail while unfurling fractions of :23.44 and :46.44 for the opening half mile.

Artemis, ridden by Gary Stevens, took a couple of shots at the leader. She tried coming up the inside as they made their way up the backstretch but Awesome Baby spurted away when challenged to open up a two-length advantage. Then Artemis tried coming around the outside as they made their way around the far turn, only to be repulsed once again. They completed six furlongs in 1:09.80.

Though she hung around through the stretch, Artemis could not make an impact on the winner, who completed the mile in 1:34.86 in front by two, and came home under smooth handling from Smith.

"We got the first quarter in twenty-three and it was all her after that," Smith said. "I told Bob that I don't know if it was her turning three or the mud today, but I finished with something left. That was real impressive to me since I didn't know if she was going to get the distance at all."

Swiss Lake Yodeler, also from the Hollendorfer barn, tracked the first two throughout for Rafael Bejarano and put together a mild late bid to nearly get the place spot. Saintly Joan and the Baffert-trained Be Proud trailed.

Bred in Kentucky by Nicholas and Debbie Sibilio, Awesome Baby is a dark bay filly by Awesome Again  out of the Running Stag mare Miss Attractive. Baffert picked her out of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale for Shah for $220,000.

The Sibilios purchased the dam for $50,000 from Adena Springs out of the 2010 Keeneland November mixed sale while she was carrying Awesome Baby, who became her fourth winner from as many starters and first stakes victor.

Awesome Baby has now won three of five starts while earning $230,250.

Under equal weights of 119 pounds, Awesome Baby paid $6.20, $3.60, and $2.80, keying a $19.20 exacta with Artemis, who returned $3.60 and $2.80. Swiss Lake Yodeler was worth $2.40 to show. Scratched were Anniversary Kitty, Sweet Bliss, and Tiz Kissable.

Awesome Baby earned 50 points toward a possible start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2 at Churchill Downs. With the 10 points she earned in the Santa Ynez, she ranks third on the Oaks leaderboard with 60 points.