The draw of a grade 1 was too much for trainer Phil D'Amato to pass up March 17 in the $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (G1), and the gamble paid off.
Entering the 1 1/8-mile test at Santa Anita Park, Agave Racing Stable and Little Red Feather Racing's two-time graded turf winner Fault had only run on a fast dirt track once—way back in February of 2017, when she was trained by Al Stall Jr.
She finished a far-back fourth that day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots but looked very much like a top dirt horse in the Santa Margarita.
With a four-wide move under jockey Geovanni Franco in the final turn, the 4-year-old Blame filly inhaled the field and pulled away in the stretch to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:50.58. After a wide trip into the first turn, Franco quickly got Fault tucked in, just outside of favored Mopotism, as Mended set fractions of :22.92, :46.79, and 1:11.11 through six furlongs.
"Geovanni rode a great race," said D'Amato, who cross-entered Fault in the March 18 Santa Ana Stakes (G2T) off her Feb. 17 Buena Vista (G2T) victory in her first start for D'Amato. "He got her in a good position on the backside and got her in the clear at the three-eighths pole, turned her loose, and I kind of thought then, 'This filly can run on the dirt, for sure.' And she just didn't stop."
It was the first grade 1 win for Franco, who also rode Fault in the Buena Vista.
"A lot of jockeys dream to win a grade 1 (so) this means a lot," Franco said. "We know we have a nice filly, and I was just hoping she would run well on the dirt. ... Coming into the far turn, I had a lot of filly, and when I asked her to run, I didn't want to get her stopped."
Mended, always a hard trier, put away early challengers Turkish Tabby and Bishop's Pond but was no match for Fault in the stretch and finished second in her second straight graded event, 2 1/4 lengths clear of Mopotism, who defeated her by a head in the Jan. 13 La Canada Stakes (G2).
"She's got a lot of heart. She tries hard," jockey Ricardo Gonzalez said of Mended, a $12,500 claim by trainer John Martin in January of 2017 who went on to win 10 straight races last year. "They pushed her early, but she ran hard the whole way. I'm really proud of the way she ran."
Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm, out of the Horse Chestnut mare Charming N Lovable, Fault has a 5-3-2 record from 15 starts and $558,795 in earnings. She was a $120,000 purchase by Klaravich Stable from Claiborne's consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.
A $50,000 claim from Klaravich and William Lawrence by Agave Racing Stable owner Mark Martinez and trainer Michelle Lovell out of a race at Churchill Downs in May of 2017, Fault won the Aug. 12 Pucker Up Stakes (G3T) at Arlington International Racecourse and placed in two other stakes last year. Little Red Feather bought into Fault for her 4-year-old campaign, and she was moved to D'Amato's barn on the West Coast.
"Winning a grade 1 on dirt does a lot for residual value, but it also does a lot for those of us that invested and believed in her," Martinez said. "And, of course, a huge thank you to (Little Red Feather's) Billy (Koch) and his team, who put some investors on her, and obviously they're very pleased."