Pamela Ziebarth's Healthy Addiction overcame a challenge from favored Island Fashion and a lengthy steward inquiry to win the $235,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting Sunday.
The 4-year-old daughter of Boston Harbor carried 115 pounds to her first graded stakes victory.
The front-runner, ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, was passed in the stretch by Island Fashion, but under frantic urging from the red-hot jockey, responded for a half-length victory. Star Parade, who was also passed by Island Fashion in the stretch, earned the place spot by a nose. The final time was 1:42 1/5 in the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares.
Gomez capped a big weekend that began with victories Saturday at Belmont Park aboard Taste of Paradise in the $500,000 Vosburgh (gr. I) and on Borrego in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
"I thought she was running very comfortably all the way around there, but she scared me a little bit at about the three-eighths pole," Gomez said. "(Island Fashion) started to put a little bit of pressure on her, and she really didn't help me a lot, which got me a little worried. I picked her up a little and got no real response, but then I got into her, she really responded well. She's a fighter."
There was a couple of bumping incidents in the stretch run. Patrick Valenzuela, aboard the gray Island Fashion, appeared to take up briefly close to the wire as Healthy Addiction bore out a bit in spite of right-handed whipping from Gomez. After about a five-minute delay, however, stewards ruled there would be no change in the order after deciding both runners contributed to the contact.
John Sadler trains Healthy Addiction, who has won three in a row and appears to be bound for the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 29.
"This filly is improving at the right time," Sadler said. "She's doing beautifully. I think she'll really take to New York. She loves a wet fast track. If she comes out well, we'd really like to go.
"I almost had a heart attack," Sadler said of the wait for the stewards' ruling. "It took too long."
Healthy Addiction led the field through early fractions of :23 and :46 1/5 and continued to show the way into the stretch. She was soon tackled on her outside by Island Fashion, who angled in and bumped with the other filly and failed to go on after taking the lead with a furlong to go. Healthy Addiction won with a gutsy effort, and Star Parade, who appeared to be tiring in the stretch for David Flores, rallied three wide impressively to place second.
Flores said he rode hard on Star Parade to get the runner-up spot when he saw the two horses in front engaged in bumping.
"You never know how those things will turn out," he said. "I thought the stewards would change the order but it wasn't that way."
Island Fashion, the defending champion in the Lady's Secret and sent off at 17-10 Sunday, has now lost 10 straight since that victory, the previous nine losses coming against grade I company.
Following a sixth-place finish in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) in July, Healthy Addiction captured the Osunitas Handicap on the Del Mar grass Aug.10 for her first stakes win. She came back in the dirt, winning the Adoration Handicap Sept. 1 at the seaside by a nose. She improved her overall record to 6-5-0 in 14 starts and pushed her earnings to $388,257 for Ziebarth, the daughter of Cecilia Straub-Rubens, who bred and owned 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow.
Sequel 98 bred the winner, a $100,000 Keeneland buy in September 2002, in Kentucky. She's out of Lady Laika, by Gone West
The third choice in a field of six, Healthy Addiction paid $8.80, $5.60 and $2.80. Star Parade returned $9 and $5.20. Island Fashion was $2.40 to show. They were followed by Hollywood Story, Valentine Dancer and Quero Quero.