With jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. in the distinctive Chicago Cubs uniform silks of owners Ron and Susie Anson, Tali'sluckybusride launched a winning bid on the second turn en route to a 4 1/2-length win in Sunday's $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. The Washington-bred daughter of Delineator completed the mile in 1:37.77 on a fast track.
Ayanna smoked the opening fractions, running the half-mile in :45.75 while building a three-length lead over Tali'sluckybride. Valdivia sent Tali'sluckybride after the leader on the turn for home and his 2-year-old filly stormed to the lead and easily held off the rest of the field in the stretch.
"She was very keen to go, and on the (clubhouse) turn, I started to take a little too much hold and the saddle slipped just a tad," said Valdivia. "When I got down the backside, I just got her to the outside and I didn't want to keep fighting her going a route of ground for the first time. When I got to the quarter-pole, she threw her ears up. She settled and was just loping the last part. I don't think I got to the bottom of her."
The win marks the first in a grade I race for the Ansons, coming in their first grade I attempt. Trainer Alfredo Marquez previously won a restricted grade I race, the Clasico del Caribe, in 1988.
The connections of the winner hadn't originally planned on attempting the Oak Leaf.
"We were going to up to New York (for the 6 1/2-furlong Astarita, gr. II, Oct. 8 at Belmont Park), but we had problems making flight connections, so we decided to stay for this race and we did," said Marquez. "I didn't give Jose (Valdivia Jr.) any instructions. He knows the filly. He's been getting on her all the time, so no use for me to tell him anything. He knew exactly what to do."
Tali'sluckybusride is out of Springhurst, by Lord At War. Her name derives from the occasion when the Ansons acquired an Akita puppy.
"We have two dogs. One of them is an Akita," Ron Anson explained. "My wife was coming out of the nail manicure shop one day and there was a bus stop. The bus driver pushed this little, 6-week-old Akita off the bus. My wife picked her up and brought her home. We named her Tali, because that's Vietnamese for 'lucky.' We named this horse after her: Tali'sluckybusride, because we think that was a great bus ride for that dog, who's now nine years old, by the way."
Godolphin's Imperial Gesture finished second as the 3-2 favorite. Ms Louisett came home third, followed by Roaring Blaze and Whitewinesipper. Ayanna was eased in the stretch and did not finish. Morning-line favorite Habibti was scratched after spiking a fever.
Tali'sluckybusride earned $150,000 for the win, her second in as many starts.
Dismissed at odds of 15-1, Tali'sluckybusride returned $32.20, $8.40, and $5.20 and led a $1 exacta worth $54.10. Imperial Gesture paid $3.40 and $2.60. Ms Louisett was worth $3.40 to show. (Chart, Equibase