Drayden Van Dyke rides Marley's Freedom to a convincing score in the Desert Stormer Stakes at Santa Anita

Drayden Van Dyke rides Marley's Freedom to a convincing score in the Desert Stormer Stakes at Santa Anita

Benoit Photo

Marley's Freedom Dominant in Desert Stormer Victory

Blame filly powered away in the stretch to win by 7 1/4 lengths.

The result of the $100,000 Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) was known by the time Marley's Freedom hit the quarter pole at Santa Anita Park on May 27.

After an ideal stalking trip behind a trio of frontrunners, the 4-year-old Blame  filly breezed past all three with little effort in the turn—including morning-line favorite and grade 2 winner Miss Sunset—and powered away in the stretch to win by 7 1/4 lengths under jockey Drayden Van Dyke. Although Marley's Freedom entered the gate at 7-5 odds, soon after the gates opened she displayed at 4-5 and paid $3.80 to win.

After she was embroiled in the pace dispute, outside of longshots Cuyathy and Yuvetsi, through rapid fractions of :21.70 and :44.96, Miss Sunset—the last-out runner-up in the April 7 Madison Stakes (G1) at Keeneland—had no answer for Marley's Freedom but still held second by 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Yuvetsi. Cuyathy, who was asked emphatically out of the gate and in the backstretch by jockey Edwin Maldonado, tired harshly to finish last of five, 25 3/4 lengths behind the winner.

"I was smiling when I saw those three gun outta there," Van Dyke said. "It felt like I had a ton of horse all the way around there. This was her best race by far today."

Marley's Freedom, owned by Cicero Farms, finished the six-furlong Desert Stormer in 1:09.31 to collect her first stakes win in her first start for new trainer Bob Baffert. She was previously trained by Bob Hess Jr., who saddled her to a graded placing in the Santa Monica Stakes (G2) March 24 and three victories, including a last-out optional-claiming allowance score April 20 at Santa Anita. Prior to her time with Hess, she was trained by Richard Baltas for two starts as a 2-year-old in 2016.

Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain III, out of the Formal Gold mare Relaxing Green, Marley's Freedom has a 4-2-0 record from 10 starts and earnings of $233,435. She was a $35,000 purchase by Cicero Farms out of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.