Home Sweet Aspen fights off Sugarinthemorning to win the Santa Monica Stakes.

Home Sweet Aspen fights off Sugarinthemorning to win the Santa Monica Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Home Sweet Aspen Squeezes Out Santa Monica

Headed at mid-stretch, she battles back to edge Sugarinthemorning at Santa Anita.

Little-known Home Sweet Aspen, a California homebred racing for Craig Stables, refused to give in when headed past mid-stretch and got up in the final couple of strides to win the $300,000 Santa Monica Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Jan. 28 (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old filly Home Sweet Aspen, sent off at odds of 5-1, earned her first graded win in the Santa Monica.

Handled strongly along the inside by Joel Rosario, the game Home Sweet Aspen edged another outsider, Sugarinthemorning, by a neck in a terrific finish to the seven-furlong event for older fillies and mares. The first two finishers are both by the sire Candy Ride .

Trainer John Sadler and Rosario won the Santa Monica for the second straight year. They teamed to win last year's race with C R K Stable's Switch.

The winning time was 1:21.42 on a fast main track.

"I kind of saw (Sugarinthemorning) coming on the outside, so I just waited a little bit," Rosario said, "But I knew (Home Sweet Aspen) had a little more left because I let her go out easy early, and she did.”

Craig Stables was formerly the Craig Family Trust, which was formed by weight-loss guru Jenny Craig and her family following the death of her husband Sidney.

She's Cheeky finished third in the Santa Monica with Big Tiz fourth. Co-favorites Teddy's Promise, winner of the La Brea Stakes (gr. I) in her most recent start, and Rumor were off the board at odds of 2-1.

Home Sweet Aspen's only prior stakes win came in a race restricted to California-breds, the Lou Rowan at Santa Anita last October. She was coming off a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong La Brea, in which she was beaten by four lengths by Teddy's Promise after setting the pace.

"We won these races last year with Switch (the La Brea and Santa Monica) and I think this is a good sprinting filly, a good quality filly," Sadler said. "It’s pretty exciting to have her win a grade I. I felt she’s capable and we got a good trip today."

Once again, Home Sweet Aspen went to the front for Rosario, who has ridden her in all nine of her races. With Rumor pressing her from the outside, those two led Sugarinthemorning and Teddy's Promise in the early going. Teddy's Promise, so impressive in winning the La Brea, broke a bit awkwardly and refused to settle on the backstretch. Jockey Victor Espinoza was forced to check in tight quarters with nowhere to run.

But on the lead, Kalookan Queen Handicap winner Rumor was having problems as well and started to back out on the turn. Fractions were not daunting for the distance -- :22.70 and :45.42. Big Tiz, making a powerful move on the extreme outside, reached contention rounding the bend. But Big Tiz flattened out in the lane, as did Teddy's Promise, who was down on the inside, and the race came down to Homesweetaspen and Sugarinthemorning.

Sugarinthemorning, on the outside for Rafael Bejarano, appeared to have the momentum as the leaders battled through the stretch. But after Sugarinthemorning put her nose in front, she couldn't get control. Home Sweet Aspen, under a vigorous hand ride from Rosario, somehow found more to prevail in last jumps before the wire.

It was 2 1/4 lengths back to third-place finisher She's Cheeky, who rallied from last for Joe Talamo. Big Tiz was folllowed by Teddy's Promise and Rumor, with Bella Diamante last.

Out of the Groovy mare My Gal Groovy, Home Sweet Aspen improved her career record to 4-3-0 in nine starts and extended her earnings to $355,822. Her only poor race came in a six-furlong turf stakes at Hollywood Park Dec. 7 when she finished last of seven.

The Santa Monica victory was worth $180,000.

Home Sweet Aspen carried 118 pounds and paid $13.60, $.6.80, and $4.40 as the fourth choice of the public. Sugarinthemorning returned $5 and $3.60, and a $2 exacta was worth $56. She's Cheeky paid $5.