Last at the quarter-pole, Evita Argentina charged while extremely wide in the stretch to mow down the field and earn her first grade I win in the $300,000 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26 (VIDEO).
Joel Rosario guided the 3-year-old daughter of Candy Ride to victory by two lengths over the late-running Starlarks, who nipped Amazed by Grace for second by a head. Trainer John Sadler earned his second win in three years in the La Brea.
Owned by her breeder, Halo Farms, and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, Evita Argentina registered her fourth win in eight lifetime tries at the La Brea's seven-furlong distance. She defeated males in Santa Anita's San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at the trip in February.
Evita Argentina was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) behind Informed Decision and Ventura.
“She likes it when she can close, when she has pace in front of her," said Sadler, who won the La Brea in 2007 with the speedster Dearest Trickski. "Even Ventura couldn’t close too much in the Breeders’ Cup (Filly & Mare Sprint), because there was no pace. Evita got some pace today.”
The winning time in the La Brea was 1:21.78.
Grade I winner Gabby's Golden Gal, the 5-2 favorite and 123-pound high weight in the field of 11 who was making her first start since July 4, raced in third place and was in contention in upper stretch before weakening to seventh.
Squeezed at the start, Evita Argentina fell out to last in the big field as Amazed by Grace, ridden by Garrett Gomez, and Kays and Jays, committed to the front end after breaking from the rail for Rafael Bejarano, dueled through hot quarter-mile splits of :22.91 and :45.19.
Amazed by Grace held the advantage by a head over her pace rival at the eighth pole but the complexion changed quickly as Evita Argentina, seven wide coming into the homestretch, stormed home on the far outside to get the lead in deep stretch under left-haded urging from Rosario.
“This filly likes to make one run, so I try to just leave her alone early and keep her comfortable," said Rosario, who has been aboard Evita Argentina in her last five starts. "She relaxed so well today that when we came to the five-sixteenths pole, I had a lot of confidence, and I thought I had a good chance to win. As you could see, she ran very well.”
Evita Argentina, who also won the seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap (gr. II) this summer at Hollywood Park, ended her 2009 campaign with three wins in eight starts and earnings of more than $400,000. Her career mark stands at 6-1-0 in 13 races with purses totaling $611,400. She won the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) at Del Mar as a 2-year-old.
The winning owners are Theodore Aroney (Halo Farms) and Ronald Judy (Three Sisters Thoroughbreds). The chestnut filly is out of the Forest Wildcat mare Jealous Wildcat.
Sent off as the second choice, Evita Argentina carried 119 pounds and paid $10.40, $5.40, and $4 while topping a $142.40 exacta.
Irish-bred Starlarks, upset winner of Del Mar's San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) this summer, returned $15.40 and $7.40 in her first start on a synthetic track in the U.S. for trainer Paddy Gallagher.
Philadelphia Park invader Amazed by Grace saw her five-race winning streak come to an end. She was $4.80 to show.
Rose Diamond, Kays and Jays, Will O Way, Gabby's Golden Gal, Pinkarella, Minute Limit, Alice's Smart and Dani Reese completed the order. Mother Ruth scratched.