Amerman Racing's Adoration finally caught the Argentine mare Star Parade in the $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Sunday, returning to the Santa Anita Park winner's circle for the first time since her 40-1 upset in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Speedy Star Parade had beaten Adoration and Santa Margarita favorite Bare Necessities in both the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park Dec. 7 and the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Feb. 16.
She tried to do it again Sunday, kicking away from Adoration on the second turn, but she couldn't hold her and winning jockey Mike Smith when they challenged again in the stretch. Adoration, a bay 5-year-old mare by Honor Grades – Sewing Lady (by Key to the Mint) won by two lengths in a time of 1:48 4/5 for the 1 1/8-mile test.
"When I got on her today and was warming her up, she was just oozing confidence, she was jogging nice, she was relaxed, and striding out like she owned the place," Smith said. "And on the backside she was just taking me wherever I wanted to go, and it was pretty much over after that. Once I hit the front I kept after her just enough to keep her busy."
Star Parade held off Bare Necessities, the 8-5 favorite in the field of five, by a head. La Tour and Fencelineneighbor completed the order of finish. Sweetshew scratched.
Star Parade, the narrow second choice of the public over Adoration, set sensible fractions of :23 1/5, :46 2/5 and 1:11.
"Just not good enough in the end to beat the other horses this time," Star Parade's rider, Victor Espinoza said. "She was running pretty good and when (Adoration) came in behind me I let her go, but she didn't have it like she usually does. Before when I let her go she would really kick."
David Hofmans, who trains Adoration, said he eased off her training after losing by a head in the Santa Maria.
"She came into this race a little better than she did the last one," Hofmans said. "This time I backed off and let her gain a little weight and let her settle and it seemed to help her. She'd gotten sick a few days (before the Santa Maria) so I missed a few days. The strategy (today) was just to stay back and let Star Parade do her thing. The difference between a mile and a sixteenth (the Santa Maria distance) and a mile and an eighth is huge. People don't understand that."
Hofmans said the $250,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park on May 9 could be next for Adoration.
Darrell Vienna, trainer of Star Parade, gave credit to Adoration.
"Everything went our way," he said. "That other filly ran great today. We've been beating up on her and she got back."
Adoration's sixth win in 17 lifetime starts was worth $180,000, increasing her career bankroll to $1,638,856.
She paid $6.60 and $3.60. Star Parade returned $3.60. The two combined for a $2 exacta of $17.80. There was no show betting.