Mona de Momma made her graded-stakes debut a winning effort April 4 at Santa Anita Park, capturing the Las Flores Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) to keep a big weekend rolling for leading trainer John Sadler.
The longtime Southern California conditioner won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) for the first time a day earlier with Sidney's Candy earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 1.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Mona de Momma swung three-wide for the stretch run and surged from fifth at the furlong pole to defeat Free Flying Soul by a head in the final stride. The time for the 6 1/2-furlong event for older fillies and mares was a strong 1:14.50 on the Pro-Ride main track.
Favored Alpha Kitten, also trained by Sadler, finished third in the Las Flores, which was run after an earthquake shook the Santa Anita grandstand during the running of the prior race.
“It set up good for the closers today," Sadler said. "There were three legitimate, fast, speedy horses in there, so I thought both my fillies would have a big shot, and we were obviously one-three, with a photo for second, so we were almost one-two. They both ran great in really fast time, so it was very good.”
Referring to the victory by Sidney's Candy a day earlier and his big lead in the trainer standings over Bob Baffert, Sadler said: “We’re really rolling.”
Mona de Momma, sent off at odds of 10-1, not only benefitted from a fast pace -- :21.89 for the opening quarter-mile and :44.03 for the half -- she also appreciated running an extra half-furlong. In her last race March 10, the 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown was moving best of all late in a six-furlong conditional allowance race, but was beaten by 1 1/2 lengths while fourth behind Las Flores foes Hallelujah Trail and Free Flying Soul.
Breaking from the rail in the Las Flores, Mona de Momma raced in sixth along the inside as Hallelujah Trail and Miss McCall sprinted away out of the chute and down the backstretch. Rosario stayed patient around the turn and angled the winner out leaving the turn. Mona de Momma responded gamely, charging home under left-handed urging to just nip Free Flying Soul at the wire.
"I knew there was speed in the race, so I was patient," Rosario said after claiming his third win on the program. "I work her in the morning, and she has a lot of ability. Today, she showed that ability. She responded really well when I asked her.”
Free Flying Soul, ridden by Mike Smith, rallied along the fence to gain a short lead in deep stretch after stalking the pace in third. Free Flying Soul, trained by Bruce Headley, was after her fist graded-stakes victory following a pair of recent third-place finishes in grade I races, including the 2009 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Alpha Kitten, with Tyler Baze aboard, was a half-length back in third. Winner of the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) as a 3-year-old in January 2009, the Tale of the Cat filly was making her second start on the comeback trail in the Las Flores after sustaining a cracked cannon bone after the Santa Ynez. She missed 13 months of action with the injury.
Bred in Kentucky by Kim and Rodney Nardelli, R.C. Durr, and Dr. Michael Spirito, Mona de Momma won her fourth race in 10 starts and increased her earnings to $177,096. Owned by Michael Talla, the bay filly is out of Society Gal, by Linkage, and sold for $335,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. 2-year-olds in training auction in March 2008.
Mona de Momma carried 116 pounds and paid $22.20, $9.40, and $4.80 while topping a $108.20 exacta. Free Flying Soul, the 120-pound high weight, returned $5 and $2.80. Alpha Kitten paid $2.80 to show.