Forever Darling attended the pace set by favored Pretty N Cool, took command a sixteenth of a mile out and held off the late run of Code Warrior to take Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Trained by Richard Baltas and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Forever Darling prevailed by a half length while covering the 6 ½ furlong distance in 1:16.25.
Idle since well beaten in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 31 at Keeneland, Forever Darling, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Congrats, was the third choice in a field of seven and paid $10.20, $5.00 and $3.20.
“I had a good position from the beginning,” said Bejarano. “I knew one of Baffert's horses would try to go straight to the lead so I just tried to figure out which one. I saw Martin (Garcia) go with Pretty N Cool and I knew she was the horse to beat, so I put us in right behind them and went from there.
“I knew pressure was coming by the three eighths pole and I just tried to keep going…I thought she was much better today running six and a half.”
Owned by Baltas, Hebert Bloodstock and J K Racing, LLC, Forever Darling, who broke her maiden going 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita on Sept. 26, got her second win from four starts. With the winner's share of $120,000, she increased her earnings to $155,400.
“We thought she displaced in the Breeders' Cup and we found she had an ulcer on her soft palate when we did surgery on her,” said Baltas. “He (Bejarano) had to ride her hard, but she just fought it out. She has a lot of determination and you can't teach that to a horse. I'm just glad that I own a piece of her and I train her. It's just a great day for me.”
Trained by Manny Badilla and ridden by Anne Sanguinetti, Code Warrior came to Santa Anita for the first time on the heels of a three-race winning streak and was finishing well as the 5-2 second choice. Finishing a neck in front of Pretty N Cool, she paid $4.60 and $3.00.
“She ran huge,” said Badilla, who is based at Golden Gate Fields. “We're going to hit the Oaks next at Golden Gate. It's a flat mile and it's our last shot with those fillies up there. We'll be back down here again soon, no doubt.”
Off at 2-1, Pretty N Cool, who carved out fractions of 22.48, 45.57 and 1:09.84, paid $2.60 to show.
Watch the race replay here:
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