In spite of drifting out a couple of paths from mid-stretch to the wire, favored Sweeter Still won the $109,800 Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the Hollywood Park turf by a nose over Magical Fantasy.
Stewards, following a lengthy inquiry, decided against making a change in the order of finish.
Magical Fantasy, rallying strongly for Alex Solis while coming off the far turn of the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies, certainly looked like a winner with a full head of steam when Sweeter Still began her drift into the 11-1 challenger's path under left-handed urging from jockey Martin Garcia.
Garcia quickly switched to the right hand, but the two fillies appeared to bump a couple of times. But Magical Fantasy could not get past the stubborn Sweeter Still until a jump after the wire.
Stewards took a long look at the race angle replays before deciding that the infraction didn't warrant making a change. They reasoned both fillies were drifting out. Bel Air Sizzle finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind. The final time was 1:35.63 on firm going.
"She kept coming out and coming out and crowding my filly," Solis complained. "It cost me the race. If (Sweeter Still) had run straight, I would have run by her.”
"Maybe (Solis) is right that I was drifting out," Garcia admitted. "I tried to help her with my right hand, but she kept getting out. I did everything I could to keep her straight. There was some contact, but it was past the wire."
Jeff Mullins trains Sweeter Still for David J. Lanzman Racing Stable and Jason Wood. The diminutive Irish-bred filly Sweeter Still proved once again what a gritty performer she is. In her last start, she refused to give way to the well-regarded Missit in the one-mile Providencia (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf April 5. After being headed in deep stretch that day, she fought back against Missit before losing by a nose. Prior to that, Sweeter Still won the China Doll, also at one mile, by one length.
“It was a tight race," said a relieved Mullins. "I told Martin to sit behind the pace and make one run. It looked like he might have moved a little bit too soon, but he got the job done. She doesn’t weigh six-hundred pounds soaking wet, so for a filly that size to accomplish what she’s accomplished is pretty sweet. We’re going to regroup now and see what comes along next.”
Sweeter Still was forwardly placed as Dawn Before Dawn overtook Lovely Isle shortly after the start and led the field of eight through fractions of :22.64, :46.32, and 1:10.87. Moving on the outside of the pacesetter, Sweeter Still grabbed the lead at the head of the stretch and proceeded to open a 1 1/2-length advantage.
But the English import Magical Fantasy, who showed no early speed in her first U.S. try for trainer Paddy Gallagher, mounted a major bid rounding the turn on the extreme outside of her rivals. She swept past the rest of the field and dueled with the winner for the final sixteenth of a mile.
After beginning her career with one start in Ireland for trainer Aidan O'Brien, Sweeter Still has won three of five U.S. tries. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar earned $65,880 for the victory, bumping her career total to $184,637.
Sent off at odds of 3-2, she paid $5, $3.40, and $2.60. Magical Fantasy, who did most of her running on Polytrack in England for trainer James Nicol, returned $11.20 and $5.60 as the unlucky loser. The $2 exacta paid $48.40. Bel Air Sizzle, ridden by Clinton Potts, was $4.20 to show.
It was a neck to Divine Legacy in fourth, followed by Lovely Isle, Gorgeous Goose, Dawn Before Dawn, and P. S. U. Grad. Harmony Creator, Fire n' Brimstone, and Decorator were scratched.