Before she married Del Mar founder Bing Crosby, actress Kathryn Grant had several movie roles. Her most famous was in the 1959 Classic 'Anatomy of a Murder,' a film based on a Michigan trial and the intricate weaving of the lives of several interesting characters.
With that in mind, we present 'Anatomy of a Kathryn Crosby' a follow-up of Friday's $83,170 Kathryn Crosby Stakes, the opening day feature of fall racing at Del Mar. It has the racing equivalent of a trial and several characters quite new to Del Mar that were thrust into starring roles and played them well.
It started with a finish.
Excellent Sunset, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly owned by Abbondanza Racing LLC and partners and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, crossed under the wire first in the mile turf event, a half-length ahead of Escape Clause. Excellent Sunset appeared to have given 26-year-old Anna Meah her first victory in a training career started in October. It was accomplished with the first horse she had saddled at Del Mar and the third overall, the first two resulting in fourth and second place finishes at Santa Anita.
But wait. The inquiry sign flashed regarding an incident in the stretch where Excellent Sunset swerved and forced jockey Ruben Fuentes to pop up in the irons on Escape Clause. The Canadian filly, making her Del Mar debut for trainer Don Schnell, had a chance to extend an eight-race winning streak, forged mainly in tracks in Manitoba and Alberta, Canada, even if No. 9 would be by disqualification.
Fuentes dismounted from Escape Clause and told Schnell: “Don't take the saddle off, we're going to win this.”
While the decision was pending, TVG reporter Britney Eurton interviewed both Meah and Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino, who is a part owner of Excellent Sunset and, of course, got a different opinion.
“I thought we won fair and square,” Pitino said – albeit with a bit of wry grin.
The unanimous ruling from the stewards: a disqualification and reversal of the first two placings.
“I wasn't sure at all that they would put us up, but the right people (stewards) agreed with him (Fuentes)” Schnell, 66, said afterward. “She's just a win machine. She does nothing but run.”
The horses and their trainers were off the grounds by early Saturday morning.
Schnell, with Escape Clause in a trailer behind, pulled out of the stable gate around 5 a.m. and a few hours later answered a call as they were approaching the Arizona border and their base at the Turf Paradise track in Phoenix. The word had spread and he'd gotten plenty of responses, especially from those who backed the filly, purchased for $3,200 and now a winner of $345,500, at odds of nearly 19-1.
“Some of the people up there (Canada) made thousands and thousands of dollars,” Schnell said.
Whether Escape Clause returns to Del Mar to put the streak on the line another time remains to be seen. “I've got to talk to some people,” Schnell said. “There's a $100,000 race at a mile and three-eighths on the turf (Red Carpet Stakes, November 22) and I'm a firm believer that she can get the distance, but that's a little too soon to come back.
“There's the Grade I ($300,00 Matriarch, one mile, December 2) but all the big guns (in training) will be out for that one.”
Excellent Sunset was back in her stall at Santa Anita by around 9 p.m. Friday, Meah said. A former exercise rider for Art Sherman and Richard Baltas, Anna is married to bloodstock agent David Meah. She's been around the business for awhile, knows well of its highs and lows and by Saturday morning was refocused on the eight horses she trains while awaiting two scheduled in from England and another from Kentucky.
“You always expect things like that are going to happen in racing and you never really are surprised,” Meah said. “We did the best we could, the filly was ready but it was an unfortunate event and hopefully next time we get a little luckier.”
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