Trainer Bob Baffert wanted to experiment with the inconsistent filly Eden's Moon on turf and his hunch paid off when the odds-on choice led from the start to take the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) July 22 at Del Mar (VIDEO).
“I didn’t know what to do with her down here, but we worked her on the turf and she liked it" said Baffert, referring to a half-mile drill in :48 2/5 July 16. “She likes a firmer surface, turf or dirt, and now we know we have options with her. We have the (Del Mar) Oaks here, so we can think about that.”
The $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) at nine fulrongs is Aug. 18.
Eden's Moon, owned by Kaleem Shah, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since capturing the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. II) on dirt at Santa Anita Park March 3. The 3-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon , a $390,000 juvenile purchase, was coming off a nose defeat in the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) on Cushion Track June 23.
Rafael Bejarano guided the 9-10 pick to victory by 1 1/4 lengths over 27-1 shot Open Water, who rallied for second by 1 1/4 lengths over Indigo River. Eden's Moon was timed in 1:34.38 for the one-mile San Clemente distance on firm turf.
Bridlewood Farm bred the winner in Florida. Eden's Moon is out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare Eden's Causeway.
Eden's Moon was determined to get the early lead, outfighting the outsiders Oblivion and Don'tgetmadalexis for the advantage in the short run to the clubhouse turn. The bay filly was able to slow the tempo down after a :23 flat opening quarter mile, getting the half in :47.09, and reaching the quarter pole in 1:11.24 with Don'tgetmadalexis applying some pressure.
“She got pressed a little early and went the first quarter a pretty good clip," Baffert said after winning the San Clemente for the first time. "But she came back and she didn’t seem that tired."
After carving a relatively easy pace into the stretch, Eden's Moon had plenty left for the drive with Open Water, rallying along the inside for Victor Espinoza, and Indigo River under Martin Garcia attempting to challenge. But there was no catching Eden's Moon, who came off the rail in the lane and held sway under a crack of the whip from Bejarano and steady handling.
“She surprised me today," Bejarano said. "She broke so good and went to the front easy. She was comfortable. I thought maybe we’re going a little fast, but she was doing it so well I just let her run. She’s a nice filly; there’s no doubt about that. And she likes the grass. We know that now, too.”
Open Water rallied from fifth to take the runner-up spot from the stalking Indigo River. Second choice Byrama was another length back in fourth, edging grade I winner Killer Graces by a head. Don'tgetmadalexis and Oblivion completed the order in the field of seven sophomore fillies.
Eden's Moon, third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) following the Las Virgenes victory, has won three of seven starts with six in-the-money performances. The only time she was off the board was in a last-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) after being roughed up early. The winning share of the San Clemente purse, $90,000, boosted her career total to $358,600.
It was another good afternoon for Baffert, who a race earlier saddled Zayat Stables' Jaycito for his first win since the 2010 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) in October 2010. Jaycito, making his third start of the year after missing almost the entire 2011 campaign, defeated an allowance/optional claiming field at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.
Eden's Moon returned $3.80, $3.40, and $2.80 while keying a $49.20 exacta with Open Water, who was also making her turf debut for trainer Eric Guillot and Southern Equine Stable. She returned $14.80 and $5.80 in a game effort. Indigo River, a stakes winner on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in February, paid $3.40 to show in her first appearance in more than four months.
British-bred Morocco Moon, scheduled to make her first United States start for trainer Neil Drysdale, was scratched.