Cat Fighter relinquished the lead to Fencelineneightbor in the stretch and then surged back for a head victory in the $200,000 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-old fillies Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
Ridden by Alex Solis at 115 pounds, Cat Fighter ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 2/5 – the slowest running in the 30-year history of the race – and paid $8.80, $5.80 and $3.80.
Bob Baffert trains the winner for The Thoroughbred Corp.
A $700,000 Kentucky-bred yearling by Storm Cat, Cat Fighter has a 3-2-1 record from seven starts. The $120,000 first prize bumped her bankroll to $209,800. It was her first stakes triumph.
Fencelineneighbor, Victor Espinoza riding at 116 pounds, rallied three-wide into the stretch, got a length in front of Cat Fighter inside the eighth pole, but weakened slightly in the final yards and settled for second. The runner-up returned $7.20 and $4.20.
It was a neck back to Tangle, Kent Desormeaux aboard at 116 pounds, and a $6.20 show payoff.
Valentine Dancer finished fourth and was followed by Bartok's Blithe, Atlantic Ocean, Sea Jewel and Victory Encounter.
The 19-10 favorite, Victory Encounter, a winner of six straight dirt races, never got untracked and trailed from start to finish.
Cat Fighter went to the lead at once and set fractional times of :22 4/5, :46 3/5 and 1:11 while being pressured by Tangle from the outside. Fencelineneighbor entered the fray on the last turn, swept passed the leaders at the head of the stretch and appeared headed to victory. Cat Fighter wasn't through yet, however, and re-rallied on the inside for the victory.
"She keeps trying," Solis said. "She's a very game little filly. Down the stretch it seemed like the other filly was going to win easy and all of a sudden I started working on my filly and she came back on. I had to make sure I kept pedaling and we got there."
Cat Fighter will be sold at auction at the The Thoroughbred Corp. dispersal sale scheduled for March 2 in Pomona, Calif.
"This will probably be my last stakes race for (The Thoroughbred Corp.)," Baffert said. "It's sort of sad in a way but it's a pretty good way to go out."
Among the horses Baffert trained for The Thoroughbred Corp. were 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given and 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem.
Earlier on the card, McCann's Mojave won a stretch-long battle with 9-10 favorite Lennyfrommalibu and scored a half-length victory in the $109,900 Sensational Star Handicap for older California-breds. Ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. at 115 pounds, McCann's Mojave ran about 6 ½ furlongs on firm turf in 1:12 1/5 and paid $23.20. Leonard Dorfman trains the winner for Nikki Hunt of Riverside and Mike Willman of Glendora.
A 4-year-old by Memo, McCann's Mojave has won four of five career starts and the $65,940 winner's share increased his earnings to $169,620. The Sensational Star was the colt's first stakes race and first start on turf.
Hemet Thought finished third.
Solis rode three winners on the nine-race card.
In the Pick Six, there were no tickets with six correct. There is a carryover of $137,427 to Sunday.