Ismene romps to victory in Cal Breeders’ Champion as Santa Anita opens

by | 12.26.2011 | 3:14pm

Ismene ran her record to a perfect 3-for-3 in Monday's 32nd running of the California Breeders' Champion stakes for 2-year-old California-bred or –sired fillies. The race, the first on the nine-race card at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., got the 75th winter meeting off to a flying start under blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s.

Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, taking over from recently retired Patrick Valenzuela, Ismene showed speed from the outset, gained command at the top of the stretch, and was never seriously threatened to the wire, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. The daughter of Tribal Rule out of the In Excess mare, Never to Excess, is trained by Bill Spawr for owner-breeder Stephen Ferraro. She broke her maiden against state-bred fillies Aug. 13 at Del Mar, then won the unrestricted Anoakia Stakes Oct. 22 at Santa Anita's autumn meet.

Willa B Awesome finished second, with Warren's Amber third in the field of six. Final time for seven furlongs on a fast dirt track was 1:21.61. Ismene was the 3-5 favorite.

The opening day program was to be highlighted by the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. Post time for the Malibu is scheduled for 7:23 p.m. (Eastern).


“She's extremely talented, to say the least. What's exciting about her is there's room to improve. She's learning to relax and to rate and she wants to learn. She was a little fresh leaving the gate today, but she settled right down. I definitely think she can stretch out the way she's improving.”

WHEN ASKED TO DESCRIBE HOW IT FEELS TO WIN THE FIRST RACE OF THE MEET ON A FILLY OF THIS CALIBER: “This was really nice. Especially when you haven't been on one (a horse) in six days, it's nice to have one tow you around there like that.”

MARTIN PEDROZA, WILLA B AWESOME, SECOND: “The race set up perfect for me but I ran into a monster (Ismene). The track felt really good and I'm glad to be back at Santa Anita.”

BILL SPAWR, ISMENE, WINNER: “Yeah, really (she has as much potential as any horse I've trained). This morning I was thinking about the ones I had and I compared her to a filly I had called Enjoy the Moment, who was really quick, but this filly will run further than her. Enjoy the Moment was more of a sprinter and I thought maybe she could carry it on but she didn't. But this one today showed us a lot because she relaxed so well, she schooled well the last few days and in the paddock today, she was very nice to saddle and she was just a lady on the track.

“She didn't get upset at all and I thought she's going to really relax and run a big race. She has a tendency to get a little worked up, but not today. I thought about putting cotton in her ears; she sees things that are not there . . . She sees that and she spooks from it, but she's gotten better. As she's matured, she's gotten better about those things.

“We've brought her along slowly. We hope that we can get her to where she can run a route of ground and the only way I can accomplish that is to space her (races) and just do what she wants to do, make her happy all the time.

“We'll work with her, give her a week off and see what we have and then we'll decide what to do with her. No (I don't have a route race in mind). I don't want to jump ahead of her. One great thing about her is her owner; he's on the same page as we are. He's a trainer. He understands. He said you run her today, you can run her in a month from now or two months from now. You just do what's right for her. He makes things happen.” 

OWNER/BREEDER STEVE FERRARO: “I think she took a step forward today. Bill's done a magnificent job. I've definitely had thoughts about her 3-year-old year, but in the end, it'll be Bill's decision. Hopefully, she'll be an Oaks-type filly. It's very difficult to come up with a filly like this and it's a very difficult game. You better love it, I'll tell you the truth.”

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