Video: Santa Maria S. (G2)
Following wins in the Dec. 3 Bayakoa Handicap (G2) and the Jan. 14 La Canada Stakes (G2), Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's daughter of Asiatic Boy again kicked clear in the stretch Saturday to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
After acting up in the gate and unseating jockey Mike Smith, Vale Dori raced close to early pacesetter Midnight Toast as she set fractions of :23.66 and :47.35 through a half-mile. Vale Dori assumed command by 1 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:11.68, was never seriously challenged in the stretch, and finished off the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:43.19.
"She's just gotten good," said Smith, who is also the regular rider on Songbird. "There's not a Songbird or Stellar Wind in there, so that certainly helps, but she's climbing the ladder. At some point she's going to have a chance at them."
"She keeps beating the same group, so that's good," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "She's just steady and she's right there. The gate thing, I think she's very funny about her head. I think the gate guy might have touched her near her ear, and she will do that. You've got to be real careful with her."
Bred in Argentina by Abolengo, Vale Dori now has a 7-3-1 record from 12 starts with earnings of $694,943. Her only losses since relocating to the United States from Dubai came to Stellar Wind and Beholder in the 2016 Zenyatta Stakes (G1), where she finished third, and in her North American debut in August at Del Mar.
"We're definitely looking at the Santa Margarita (G1) next," Baffert said. "That's the plan. Those South American horses, they love the mud. They like wet tracks. It's good to know, but she's been a joy to train. ... She's making money, we enjoy watching her run, and she tries hard every time."