Cheekaboo (middle) finds just enough to win the Honeymoon Stakes

Cheekaboo (middle) finds just enough to win the Honeymoon Stakes

Benoit Photography

Cheekaboo Edges Favorites in Honeymoon

It was the California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat's first open-company try.

With an expert ride from Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Cheekaboo broke through for her first graded stakes win in her first start against open company June 19 in the $200,000 Honeymoon Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Park.

The California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat had the whole field of 3-year-old fillies ahead of her exiting the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile grass test, but Smith kept her on the rail after saving ground in the bend. She rallied on the inside as other closers angled out and Cheekaboo split favorites Be Mine and Stays in Vegas in the final strides to get to the wire a head in front at odds of 23-1 for trainer Peter Eurton.

"Wasn't that awesome?" Smith said. "I don't know what it looked like, but it was fun as hell to ride. I kinda fee like, 'OK, now people can see I can ride a little bit. I can do more than just hang on to Songbird.' "

Be Mine nosed out Stays in Vegas for third, a start after Stays in Vegas edged that rival in the Senorita (gr. IIIT) May 7. Grade III winner Decked Out appeared primed for a winning run on the outside in the stretch, but lost momentum momentarily when Lady Valeur pushed her out in the stretch and completed the blanketed superfecta a neck back in fourth.

Gone to Bali shot to the front early from post 2 and set a quick pace, clicking off fractions of :22.72, :45.92, and 1:09.96 through six furlongs, as Cheekaboo raced in seventh. Stays in Vegas assumed command in the stretch after Gone to Bali tired, after tracking the pace in second, but the fast pace likely took a toll.

The winner paid $49.60, $16.60, and $8.80 across the board. Be Mine returned $4.80 and $3.40, and Stays in Vegas brought $3.60 to show.

Lady Valeur finished fifth, followed by How Unusual, Gone to Bali, Jeremy's Legacy, and Where's the D, to complete the order of finish.

Owned by Sharon Alesia, Mike Burns, and Ciaglia Racing, Cheekaoo now has a 3-2-2 record from eight starts with earnings of $279,680. Bred by Madeline Auerbach, Richard Rosenberg, and Barry Abrams, her lone stakes win entering the race came in the Campanile Stakes for California-breds May 1 at Golden Gate Fields.