Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Winding Way was last by a long ways down the backstretch in the field of seven after she dwelt at the start. The 7-5 pick was forced five wide as she made her bid leaving the turn. And despite showing some greenness when lugging in through the lane, Winding Way straightened away in the final furlong to run down Sugarinthemorning in the final strides for a half-length victory. Rumor finished third.
Stewards held an inquiry into the stretch run as Winding Way came over on Rumor at mid-stretch but ruled the infraction did not affect the order of finish.
Spendthrift Farm's homebred Winding Way, now unbeaten in three starts for trainer Carla Gaines, completed 6 1/2 furlongs in a sharp 1:15.93 over Polytrack. The 3-year-old filly has defeated older females in all three of her races.
"I thought we were ready, but when they went, she turned her head sideways and we didn't go anywhere," Bejarano said after claiming his 10th stakes win of the Del Mar meeting. "But I didn't want to rush her, so I just let her run away from there. Even though we were way behind, I had a lot of confidence in her. I work her in the mornings and she is strong. She finishes so well."
Sugarinthemorning, breaking from the far outside for Martin Garcia, outfought Glamorista and Home Sweet Aspen for the early lead and led those two through fast opening fractions of :22.32 and :45.11. Sugarinthemorning took command in upper stretch and appeared home free as she took a 3 1/2-length advantage at the furlong marker. But in spite of the big lead, Sugarinthemorning could not withstand the relentless challenge of Winding Way on the far outside.
Winding Way, a daughter of Malibu Moon out of the More Than Ready mare More Than Pretty, was making her stakes debut in the Rancho Bernardo. She launched her career Jun 10 at Betfair Hollywood Park with a 4 3/4-length tally over maidens. She followed that with a 7 1/4-length romp in an allowance/optional claiming event July 21 at Del Mar.
"The last time she ran she was looking at the grandstand (at the break), but she overcame that and a much easier field," Gaines said. "She did the same thing today. I was just hoping to hit the board. That's a massive recovery.
"I think a lot of that was just inexperience," Gaines said of Winding Way's lugging in during the stretch run. "We were testing her in a graded race to see if she might be a Breeders' Cup type horse. It looks like she's getting closer now."
The winning purse of $90,000 pushed Winding Way's career earnings to $163,800. Carrying 114 pounds, the dark bay/brown filly paid $4.80, $3.40, and $2.60. Sugarinthemorning, running second for the fifth time in her past six starts, returned $4.20 and $2.60 while rounding out a $17.80 exacta. Rumor, finishing 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third with Garrett Gomez aboard, paid $2.80 to show.