Seltzer Thoroughbreds' Finest City showed no signs of rust in her first start since her Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) victory, the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) Jan. 21 at Santa Anita Park.
Under pressure on the lead throughout the seven-furlong test, after breaking a step slow from the inside post in the field of five, the City Zip mare showed her class in the stretch and pulled away impressively late to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
Under the guidance of jockey Mike Smith, Finest City set blazing fractions as multiple graded stakes winner Fantastic Style dueled with the Eclipse Award finalist on the outside. Fantastic Style pulled even with the frontrunner as the pair turned for home, but was no match soon after.
Finest City set fractions of :22.15, and :44.26 through a half-mile, then shook clear with a couple cracks of the whip by Smith through six furlongs in 1:08.79 and hit the wire in 1:21.49 on a track rated wet fast.
"Breaking from the (inside post) in this slop, you gotta get out there," Smith said. "She's never had this kind of dirt in her face and I certainly didn't want her to get any today."
"We're just keeping her fresh. We're not really laying her off at all," winning trainer Ian Kruljac said of Finest City. "That's the way she runs best. The inside (post) was a big obstacle today and Mike just took it to them. She's got stamina. She's got everything you'd ever want in the breeding of a race horse."
The Santa Monica was Finest City's third graded stakes win and all have been in sprints, but Kruljac said after the race that he plans on stretching her out. She has run well in two-turn races on grass and dirt, but has yet to win. She was only a head behind Avenge in the Sept. 4 John C. Mabee Stakes (G2T) and came in third behind champions Beholder and Stellar Wind in last year's Vanity Mile (G1).
"We'll enjoy this and see what she wants to do in a couple weeks," Kruljac said. "No, (we won't keep her sprinting). There aren't that many sprints for her here in California."
The Santa Monica victory made Finest City racing's most recent millionaire. Bred by HnR Nothhaft Horseracing out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Be Envied, she was an $85,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2013 by her current connections, who bought her from the Bluewater Sales consignment. She now has $1,045,594 in earnings, with 5-4-2 record from 15 starts.