Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp
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Crisp: Getting Better With Every Race

Michael Talla-owned filly most recently bested Blind Luck in the Santa Anita Oaks

Prior to her hard-fought score in the March 6 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), not much attention had been paid to Michael Talla’s Crisp, a dark bay or brown daughter of El Corredor.

While she had scored an impressive win Jan. 10 in the Santa Ysabel Stakes in her 3-year-old debut, Crisp’s resume still didn’t compare to three-time grade I victor Blind Luck, who was the heavy 1-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks.

But Crisp proved herself a fierce competitor along the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) trail when taking advantage of a slow pace to upset Blind Luck, who experienced traffic troubles in the stretch and checked in third. Crisp outlasted All Due Respect by a neck for the victory.

“(Trainer) John (Sadler) and (assistant trainer) Larry (Benavidez) deserve a lot of credit,” said Talla, a Los Angeles resident who bought Crisp for $160,000 through Martin Anthony out of Book Four at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. “The (Santa Anita Oaks) had a lot of strategy in it. There was a lot of effort and thought that the two of them put into how she was going to run and how she’s going to do, and the race turned out exactly how they had scripted it.”

Talla, who has eight horses in training, has been in the Thoroughbred business for just five years. But his knowledge and passion for the sport is evident in the way he excitedly talks about the plans he has for his star filly, who is the best horse he has owned thus far.

Crisp is named after a term on workout sheets that describes impressive morning performances.

“I would hear the word, ‘She had a crisp workout,’ and I kept saying, ‘That’s a neat name,’ but I felt for sure that it would have been taken,” said Talla. “But I submitted it, and lo and behold, nobody had ever named a horse Crisp. I thought it was a great name for her. She does work great in the morning. Leading up to this race, she had two bullet works at Hollywood Park.”

Talla and Sadler are considering the April 2 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn as Crisp’s next start along the Oaks trail.

“When she was in the receiving barn (after the Santa Anita Oaks), she was up on her toes and looked like she could have gone around again,” he said. “They’ve got her really tight right now and ready to roll. Every Beyer (figure) she’s run has been faster than the one before; every race, she’s improved.

“Obviously any time you can beat a horse like Blind Luck, you’ve got to be at your absolute best and hope Blind Luck has bad luck, which is exactly what happened (in the Santa Anita Oaks). So we’re hopeful and headed to the (Kentucky) Oaks if everything works out alright and she stays healthy. Right now, she’s fit as a fiddle.”

Talla, who grew up on a ranch in Arizona where his family raised horses, cattle, and cotton, has had a lifelong interest in Thoroughbreds. 

“I (rode in) rodeo races in my younger years, so I’ve always loved horses. You work yourself to death for 30 to 40 years, and hopefully you’ve had some success and you can afford to buy these horses and have some fun with them,” said Talla, who is in the real estate and athletic club businesses. 

While Talla is apprehensive about Crisp facing all the top 3-year-old fillies across the country leading up to the Run for the Lillies, he said casually, “Hopefully we can hang with them.”

“The good thing about our filly is she has good tactical speed. She can race in the front, or can come from behind. The other 3-year-old fillies we’ve seen so far can either run from the front or behind. We haven’t really noticed anybody yet that can do either. We like the fact (Crisp) is flexible that way."

Regardless of the outcome April 30, Talla is just excited to have such a good filly on his hands, and is anticipating the months to come.

“You get lucky when you find a horse like that," he said of Crisp, who was bred in Kentucky by James Jones and Randy Swanson. "It doesn’t look like she’s peaked yet. She was a late comer, because she’s just so big. Now every race, she’s fitter, trimmer, is muscling out, and the (Santa Anita Oaks) was the best she’s ever looked. They think she’ll move forward her next three or four races.

“We’re hoping Blind Luck has peaked, but you never know. She could be getting better every race too. You just don’t know…on race day all bets are off. You’ve just got to run them and see what happens.”