Tarlow, front, battles down the stretch with Dream of Summer to win the Santa Margarita Handicap.

Tarlow, front, battles down the stretch with Dream of Summer to win the Santa Margarita Handicap.

Benoit photo

Thief Tarlow Steals Santa Margarita By a Nose

Santa Margarita Handicap
The pacesetting Tarlow, ridden to a frantic finish by Patrick Valenzuela, reached the wire a nose in front of Dream of Summer to win the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Saturday.

Tarlow, a 4-year-old daughter of Stormin Fever, was wearying in the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile event, which is Santa Anita's championship race for older fillies and mares, but reached the finish just in time in 1:49 2/5.

"She's a hard fighter let's put it that way," Valenzuela said. "She broke a little awkward, broke out a little bit, but she still ran a great race, so I was very impressed."

Dream of Summer prompted the leader throughout with Corey Nakatani aboard. She fell back a bit in the run for home when drifting out before coming on again in deep stretch, just missing in the final bob of the head.

"Patrick's filly was drifting out, and my filly was kind of running a little bit away from her," Nakatani explained. "She ran a hard race. I still thought we beat her on the head bob. Obviously the photo showed different."

Favored Miss Loren, who angled inward during the stretch run and hung a bit close to home, settled for third with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard as the 118-pound high weight in the field of nine. She was three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

"It seems like nobody could make up any ground whatsoever," Valdivia complained, adding, "she was game through the drive. She was very game."

Valenzuela is currently serving a suspension for a riding infraction but was allowed to accept the mount in the Santa Margarita as a designated graded stakes race.

John Shirreffs trains Tarlow, who won the La Canada (gr. II) for 4-year-old fillies Feb. 12 in front-running fashion when teamed with Valenzuela for the first time. The La Canada was Tarlow's first graded stakes win for owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss of Beverly Hills.

"Patrick is one of the great speed riders in the world so i just left it to him," said Shirreffs, who won his third Santa Margarita. He previously won with Manistique in 1999 and teamed with Valenzuela to win on Starrer in 2003.

Breaking from the far outside post, Tarlow veered out at the break but Valenzuela hustled her to a clear lead heading into the clubhouse turn. Valenzuela turned the pace down with a tight hold while slightly off the rail, but Tarlow led in relative comfort through fractions of :23 2/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5. She opened up in the lane after completing the mile in 1:35 4/5 and, although visibly tiring, refused to give in under vigorous handling. None of the expected late runners challenged and the first three were left to slug it out.

Tarlow was a promising 2-year-old, finishing second to Halfbridled in the 2003 Oak Leaf (gr. II). But after being injured while finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), she went to the sidelines for nearly nine months. It wasn't until her third-place effort in the El Encino (gr. II) to begin the 2005 season that she appeared ready to regain her early form.

Her overall record improved to 4-3-1 in 10 lifetime starts with earnings of $439,740.

Bred by Brereton C. Jones in Kentucky, Tarlow was a $275,000 Keeneland buy in September 2002. She's out of the Dreadnought mare Madam Bear.

Tarlow, who carried 117 pounds, paid $15, $7.80 and $5.40. Dream of Summer returned $11 and $5, completing a $142.40 exacta. Miss Loren's show was $3.

Personal Legend, A.P. Adventure, Sweet Lips, Festival, Good Student and Uraib followed. Scrofa and House of Fortune scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

Crystal Water Handicap
In the $109,800 Crystal Water Handicap for California breds, Cozy Guy, ridden by Alex Solis, overwhelmed the pacesetter Early Snow in deep stretch and edged away for a one-length victory.

A 4-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding, Cozy Guy paid $8.20, $5.40 and $3.80 as the 118-pound high weight and a slight favorite in the field of eight. Dan Hendricks trained the bay for owners Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Hayes, Jerome Higman, et al.

Early Snow ($14, $8.40), Kent Desormeaux riding, held on for second by a neck over Running Free ($5.80) and Victor Espinoza. The time for the mile was 1:33 2/5.

(Chart, Equibase)