Jockey Gary Stevens has certainly made the most of his two victories at the Spring/Summer meet at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The Hall of Famer, who earned his first win at the historic track in nearly eight years with a thrilling victory aboard Marketing Mix in the Grade I Gamely May 27, added another Grade I to his extremely impressive resume with a 6-1 surprise atop Byrama in the $250,250 Vanity Handicap Saturday.
Racing without blinkers for the first time in 10 months and making her Cushion Track debut, Byrama overtook runaway leader Royal Tiger approaching the stretch, then pulled away from More Chocolate in the final eighth of a mile to win by 3 ½ lengths.
Trained by Simon Callaghan for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Byrama, a 4-year-old Byron filly out of the Darshaan mare Aymara, completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.40. The victory was her fifth in 19 starts. The English-bred's first Grade I success increased her earnings to $484,750.
The fifth choice in a field of six, Byrama paid $14, $6.20 and $3. More Chocolate, the 5-2 second choice who was making her synthetic track debut for trainer John Sadler, returned $3.60 and $2.60. She finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of 8-5 favorite Lady of Fifty, who paid $2.20 to show.
“Just a great race for this filly,'' said Stevens, the only jockey to have won a Grade I at the current meet. “Distance was the question. We didn't have any cover going around the first turn and I was a little worried about that, but then she settled in well into a real nice rhythm.
“Actually, I made her kick a little earlier than I would have liked. Her run is only about an eighth of a mile and I had to use her between the quarter pole and the eighth pole and she was able to float home the last sixteenth of a mile.
“She put (More Chocolate) away and nobody else was really running. She's a wonderful filly. She probably deserved to win the (Grade I) Madison (April 13, a race in which she was second, beaten by a neck) at Keeneland and we are probably going to get some more Grade I wins with her.''
Callaghan said Byrama, who had been the runner-up in two previous races over synthetic surfaces before Saturday, said he will keep her on artificial tracks in the immediate future.
“She loves the synthetic, so we'll definitely keep her on that,'' he said. “It's great to get a Grade I win with her because, respectfully, she was the best filly that day at Keeneland and to get it done today is fantastic.''
Sadler wasn't discouraged by the effort of More Chocolate, who tried the winner early in the stretch, but couldn't match strides late.
“I thought she was going to win on the turn, we got really excited at the quarter pole,'' said Sadler. “She might have hung just a little bit. It was a good second for her first time on synthetic.''
Royal Tiger, who had a five-length advantage through a 47.14 half mile, faded to fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind Lady of Fifty. Completing the order of finish were Open Water and Esentepe, who was eased in the stretch by jockey Corey Nakatani.
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