Hillhouse High carried the familiar burgundy and gold colors of Golden Eagle Farm to victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes at Santa Anita Park, leading a 1-2 finish for trainer Richard Baltas, who also saddled runner-up Mokat in the one-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Hillhouse High, a 6-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate, reeled in front-running Brazilian-bred Juno and held off her fast-finishing stable mate Mokat to win by about three-quarters of a length. Juno held third, with 6-5 favorite Harmonize fourth in the field of seven.
Time for the mile on firm turf was 1:33.61.
Bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm, Hillhouse High was winning her first stakes in the Royal Heroine. It was her fourth win overall from 23 career starts. Out of the Coronado's Quest mare, Pleasant Laughter, Hillhouse High traces back in her female family to No Class, a foundation mare for Ernie Samuels' Sam-Son Farm.
Juno ran off to a long early lead under Kent Desormeaux, going :22.56 for the opening quarter, :45.67 for the half and 1:10.09 for six furlongs – opening up as much as six or seven lengths down the backstretch. Nakatani had Hillhouse High in closest pursuit, narrowing the gap to about three lengths at the far turn and then took command in the stretch.
“We had a great trip,” said Nakatani. “She broke really well, was tactically placed, and the inside horse asserted herself with Kent (Desormeaux). I was able to track them and give her a target, which was really good for her. She did the rest. She's a really good filly.”
Mokat rallied from far back to edge front-running Juno for the place.
“Her last two works were very good and Corey actually worked her both times,” Baltas said of Hillhouse High. “She finished her last quarter in 22 and change the other day. The main thing was that I thought she'd get the trip today. She sat right behind the speed and it just worked out that way. I was really happy with Mokat's race as well. It's unfortunate that she didn't win, but what can you do – they were running against each other.
“Hillhouse High had the perfect trip today right behind the speed. I was watching both horses just hoping we'd get a piece and we ended up running one-two. I'm just grateful for that.
“Corey has been helping me a lot in the mornings. He was helping me before he even started his comeback and he must have breezed 25 horses for me. His weight is down, his son is his agent and they're a great team. Corey is so great on the grass. He's a great rider period but really, really good on the grass.”
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