Malibu Pier comes home strong in the Santa Ana Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Malibu Pier comes home strong in the Santa Ana Stakes.
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Bejarano Guides Malibu Pier to Santa Ana Win

Crafty ride at Santa Anita leads to first stakes win for B. Wayne Hughes' homebred.

Malibu Pier let pace rival Lilly Fa Pootz go on the final turn, then ran her rival down in the stretch to post her first stakes victory in the $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf March 19 (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old Malibu Pier was a question at the 1 1/8-mile distance but Spendthrift Farm's homebred daughter of Malibu Moon  had plenty left to hold sway over 19-10 favorite Turning Top by one length.

After surrendering the lead, Rafael Bejarano guided Mailbu Pier, the 2-1 second choice in the field of six older fillies and mares, to victory craftily for trainer Carla Gaines. The final time was 1:48.05 over a turf course rated "good."

The turning point in the Santa Ana, though, may have come on the final bend when Turning Top, making a big move on the leaders for jockey Joel Rosario, stumbled approaching the heels of Malibu Pier, who had angled out slightly to chase Lilly Fa Pootz. Irish-bred Turning Top lost all momentum at that point but re-gathered in the lane after Malibu Pier had edged past Lilly Fa Pootz to get the lead by a half-length.

Rosario said afterward that Turning Top had slipped on a soft spot in the turf.

Turning Top would rally from fourth at mid-stretch but could not get on even terms with Malibu Pier, who inched away under urging from Bejarano. Lilly Fa Pootz, 1 1/4 lengths father back, held on for third by a neck over her Jerry Hollendorfer-conditioned stablemate Washington Bridge, the 123-pound high weigh in a field reduced to six by a pair of scratches.

“I knew (Lilly Fa Pootz) was going to try and go to the lead,” Bejarano said. “I tried to make sure my horse was relaxed. At the half-mile pole, I decided to let her relax because we (Malibu Pier and Lilly Fa Pootz) were about six or seven lengths on the lead.

“I gave her a little breather before I came to the turn, and then let her go. When I came to the top of the stretch, I let her shoot to the lead. She showed me a big kick. She was really good today.”

Malibu Pier, breaking from the rail, was second after the opening quarter-mile by a head to the pulling Lilly Fa Pootz before getting her head in front at the half-mile point. Lilly Fa Pootz squirted away to a 1 1/2-length advantage after six furlongs and fought back between horses in the lane before Malibu Pier took over. Quarter-mile fractions were :23.28, :46.53 and 1:10.53.

Gaines said she wasn’t alarmed when her chestnut filly was passed by Lilly Fa Pootz. “She was going so easy, Rafael was just giving her a breather,” commented Gaines.

B. Wayne Hughes bred Malibu Pier in Kentucky. The chestnut filly is out of Blue Moon, by Lomitas.

Malibu Pier, coming off a third-place effort in the one-mile Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita lawn Feb. 21, won for the fourth time in eight starts and boosted her career bankroll to $252,200.

She carried 118 pounds and paid $6, $3 and $2.40. Turning Top, who was sixth in the Buena Vista, returned $3 and $2.40. Lilly Fa Pootz paid $3.20 to show.

Washington Bridge was followed by grade I win Eclair de Lune, never a factor after trailing the field to mid-stretch. It Tiz trailed.

Church Camp and Blue Maiden scratched.