Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Sweet Catomine kicked off her 3-year-old campaign with a facile win over four overmatched foes in the $108,000 Santa Ysabel (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park Sunday.
Trainer Julio Canani said afterward that Sweet Catomine was only 70% fit after missing much training time due to the stormy weather Southern California has been experiencing. The Santa Ysabel was originally scheduled for Jan. 9 but the card was canceled because of the track condition.
The strapping daughter of Storm Cat
-Sweet Life got a couple of cracks of the whip down the lane from David Flores as she put away her only rival in the 1 1/6-mile test, Pussycat Doll. The final time was a lackluster 1:43 3/5 on a fast track as she drew away to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Flores rode Sweet Catomine for the first time since her debut, replacing Corey Nakatani, who is serving a 30-day suspension.
"She's definitely a big horse with a lot of class," Flores said. "I had to keep her busy (down the stretch) because she started looking around."
The winner, who is almost assured of winning the 2004 Eclipse as outstanding juvenile filly, carried 124 pounds, nine more than each of her opponents.
"This horse wasn't fit to run," said Canani, who said he may target the Las Virgenes (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies Feb. 12 at one mile. "I didn't put the screws down on her at all. But she's truly a champion. She's still developing."
Revealed, entrymate to the winner, and Island Escape set a fast early pace – :22 4/5 and :46 1/5 – as Sweet Catomine tracked a couple of lengths behind while racing off the rail. The victor moved early, passing Island Escape while pulling her way to the front after six furlongs in 1:10 3/5.
Pussycat Doll challenged on the outside for jockey Rene Douglas and hung on tenaciously before giving way in the final stages.
On London Time, Garrett Gomez aboard, four lengths farther back. Island Escape and Revealed trailed. Andrea's Wish scratched.
Sweet Catomine notched her fourth consecutive graded stakes win, earning $64,800 for owner/breeder Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod. She has not lost since a second-placed finish in her debut July 31 at Del Mar while amassing earnings of $864,600.
Sweet Catomine paid $2.20 and $2.10. Pussycat Doll, who broke her maiden in her last start at Santa Anita Dec. 31, returned $2.10 and completed a $4.80 exacta as the second choice in the field.
About $478,000 of the $502,000 total place pool was bet on the Wygod entry.