One of Southern California's top female sprinters loomed at the quarter pole in the $100,000 Las Flores Stakes (G3) and the result looked to be a foregone conclusion at Santa Anita Park.
Two-time graded winner Skye Diamonds appeared to be rolling, and had gotten the hot pace setup she needed to close for victory.
But a new face on the sprinting scene—Medallion Racing, Keith Abrahams, and Saundra Lazaruk's 4-year-old Selcourt—had plenty left in the tank.
After a three-way joust for the early lead with Princess Karen and Coniah, Selcourt fended off all challengers in the stretch and held on for a three-quarter length victory. After Princess Karen packed it in before the turn in the six-furlong test, Coniah held firm on the rail and also battled on in the stretch to finish second, but could not hold off Selcourt.
Skye Diamonds never got to the top gear she showed in her Great Lady M. (G2) and Rancho Bernardo (G3) victories last season, and came in third, a head back.
"She might have gotten a little tired at the end ... but it's a good start (to the season)," said Skye Diamonds' trainer, Bill Spawr.
A Tiz Wonderful filly trained by John Sadler, Selcourt was a head behind Coniah through the first quarter-mile that went in :21.54, put a head in front through a half-mile in :44.52, and hit the wire under Tyler Baze in 1:09.65 to score at odds of 6-5.
"She was in with really good horses and their strategy seemed to be to take it to her," Sadler said. "She took the pressure and just kept going."
The chestnut has shown off her speed since her debut in February of 2017, when she routed a maiden special weight field by 9 1/4 lengths. She then placed in two stakes—the Santa Paula in April and Angels Flight in May at Santa Anita—but she never raced again in 2017. Back to racing and fresh in the Jan. 14 Kalookan Queen Stakes, she once again impressed with a 7 1/2-length victory.
"She's a nice filly, but she had to work for it today," Baze said. "I was very confident in her. She ran a huge race last time and (Sadler) said she's doing better than she was before that race, so that means she was going to run at least as well as she did in her last, and I thought that was good enough to win today.
"Skye Diamonds is a tough mare and so is Coniah. ... Those were tough horses she beat today, so we'll see where it goes from here."
Bred in Kentucky by Abrahams, out of the Open Forum mare Azure Spring, Selcourt now has $163,920 in earnings from five starts.
Earlier in the card Holly and David Wilson's Pubilius Syrus won his second straight stakes on the Santa Anita grass, with a stalk-and-pounce victory in the $75,000 Baffle Stakes.
With an ideal off-the-pace trip behind dueling leaders Afleet Ascent and Psycho Dar in the about 6 1/2-furlong sprint down the Santa Anita hillside turf course, the 3-year-old Candy Ride colt made his move three wide in the stretch under jockey Kent Desormeaux and hit the wire a length in front. Afleet Ascent held gamely to finish second.
Pubilius Syrus had found all of his success around two turns until the Baffle. He broke his maiden going a mile at Santa Anita in September, then placed in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3T) before his first stakes score in the one-mile Eddie Logan Dec. 29.
"There wasn't a mile race for him for another three weeks, and he was tearing down his stall, so he needed something to do," said winning jockey Kent Desormeaux.