Santa Catarina Gets Graded Stakes Win in Oaks

Bob and Bever;y Lewis' well-regarded Santa Catarina finally scored her first victory in a graded stakes race for trainer Bob Baffert in Saturday's $206,200 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park.

The daughter of Unbridled trailed early but swept up on the turn for home under jockey Gary Stevens to grab the lead from Buffythecenterfold in upper stretch. She coasted home a four-length winner in a stakes-record time of 1:41 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile test on a fast track. the clocking took a full second off the 51-year-old record of 1:42 3/5 set by A Gleam in 1952.

``She's just learning how to run right now,'' Baffert said. ``She made a really long sustained drive, so maybe she'll learn to relax a little bit more in her races. She deserved to win a graded stakes.''

Stevens, who won the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) aboard Storming Home earlier on Saturday's card agreed.

"She ran very relaxed," he said. "to be honest I didn't know how fast we were going and whether she'd be able to make up the ground. She put on a big powerful move coming into the stretch and when she changed leads, the race was over."

Princess V. set a fast pace, going :23 1/5, :45 4/5, and 1:09 2/5, opening a two-length lead on the turn before tiring in the stretch to finish third. Buffythecenterfold stalked the leader in second from the inside and bid between horses in the stretch.

Santa Catarina had two seconds and a third in grade I races and was coming off a third-place showing in the Black Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico May 16. Her third victory and eighth in-the-money performance in nine career starts was worth $127,320 and improved her career bankroll to more than $600,000.

The winner was a $950,000 Keeneland September 2001 yearling purchase.

Sent off at 4-5 in the field of five, Santa Catarina paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Buffythecenterfold returned $3 and $2.20. Princess V. showed for $2.20.

(Chart, Equibase)